WASHINGTON, D.C. — Republican National Committee (RNC) chairwoman Ronna Romney McDaniel told Breitbart News in an exclusive interview last week in her office on Capitol Hill that Republicans are preparing already for what they expect may be a landslide midterm electoral victory that sweeps in as many as 14 GOP pickups in the U.S. Senate and not only holds but strengthens the House GOP majority.
McDaniel, who took over the RNC after her predecessor Reince Priebus joined President Donald Trump’s White House as Chief of Staff, said in the half-hour-long interview on Thursday afternoon:
On the Senate side, we have a great opportunity to expand our majority in the Senate. There are 10 states where President Trump won where we have Democrat incumbents and President Trump won by large margins in some of those states. We also have infrastructure in some of those states already. The RNC had a ground game in Michigan and Wisconsin and Pennsylvania. We need to be continuing to build on that infrastructure in these Senate races. We know the Democrats are rebuilding. We can turn out our vote. We need to be prepared to do that and continue to engage our voters so we can expand our majority in the Senate. On the House side, typically the party that has the White House loses the majority in the midterms—that’s been the historic trend. We want to buck that trend. We want to deliver for President Trump majorities in the House and the Senate so that he can govern.
In the U.S. Senate races, a particularly interesting picture emerges that heavily favors Republicans. Republicans must only defend nine seats—seven of which are in the deep red states of Wyoming, Utah, Texas, Tennessee, Nebraska, Alabama and Mississippi. Only two GOP senators, Jeff Flake of Arizona and Dean Heller of Nevada, are expected to potentially see competitive races. The other side of the aisle is much more promising for the GOP, and troubling for Democrats. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer has more than half his conference—23 Democrats and both independents who caucus with Democrats—facing reelection in 2018.
The 10 states where President Trump won in 2016 and Democrats face reelection battles, are: Florida, Indiana, Michigan, Montana, Missouri, North Dakota, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and West Virginia. McDaniel told Breitbart News that Republicans will compete to flip these seats—occupied currently by Democratic Sens. Bill Nelson (D-FL), Joe Donnelly (D-IN), Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), Jon Tester (D-MT), Claire McCaskill (D-MO), Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Bob Casey (D-PA), Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), and Joe Manchin (D-WV)—into GOP control.
But it’s not just those Senate seats that are competitive: McDaniel points to several other Democratic senators and independents who caucus with Democrats—like Amy Klobuchar in Minnesota, Bob Menendez in New Jersey, Martin Heinrich of New Mexico, Tim Kaine of Virginia, Angus King of Maine, and even Bernie Sanders of Vermont and Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts—who are potentially vulnerable.
Trump narrowly missed upsetting Democrat Hillary Rodham Clinton in Minnesota, finishing with 45,000 votes less than Clinton there—making Klobuchar’s reelection even tougher if a Trump-like populist emerges as the GOP senatorial nominee there. Menendez is under criminal indictment and will face trial beginning later this year, giving Republicans an opportunity in New Jersey. Trump was competitive in New Mexico, as he finished less than 70,000 votes behind Clinton—who got less than 50 percent of the vote there—and Heinrich won in 2012 with just 51 percent of the vote.
Kaine’s closeness to Clinton’s failure, and his continued refusal to work on a bipartisan basis with the Trump administration, puts Virginia back in play, and Trump’s win in Maine’s second congressional district, netting him one electoral vote, makes King’s chances in Maine at reelection an interesting proposition—particularly if a populist like Gov. Paul LePage were to throw his hat in the ring. Republican governors in Vermont and Massachusetts prove the GOP can win in both states, and Republicans are likely to confront at least Warren but maybe even Sanders on their home turf.
“I think we will be in play in about 16 seats,” McDaniel told Breitbart News. “Two of them will be Arizona and Nevada, which we’ll be defending for Republicans, and then there’s opportunities—Virginia even has an opportunity. We’re not going to concede anything. We’re going to put the best ground game in place. We want to expand our majority in the Senate. Ideally, we’d love to get to 60. But this is the best map we’ve seen in a midterm from a Senate perspective in a long time and we want to capitalize on that.”
On the House side, Republicans currently hold 237 seats—218 are needed for a majority—with a handful of vacancies, most of which the GOP is expected to pick up. It will be a tougher battle for the GOP to hold that majority, but McDaniel is confident that the party can do it and will. She said:
We’re going to make sure that it holds. That’s our job. But we’re not going to take anything for granted. The Democrats have figured out that they have become complacent. They haven’t invested in the mechanics of trying to get out their vote—and they’re trying to organize using opposition and obstruction to engage their voters, and we have to make sure that we’re staying a step ahead of them so that we can continue to have those majorities, expand those majorities but most importantly we want to see President Trump accomplish all that he wants to in his final two years of his first term.
In terms of Democratic obstruction of President Trump’s agenda, McDaniel points to the “unprecedented” attempted-but-failed filibuster of now-Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch last week. Only three Democrats voted for his confirmation, forcing Senate Republicans to use what is called the nuclear option to navigate around arcane Senate rules to get Gorsuch confirmed. McDaniel believes the failed obstruction of Gorsuch will backfire on many of the Democrats who participated in Schumer’s games in the Senate. McDaniel said:
They’re putting their party above the people of their states. People came out and voted for President Trump. People like Joe Manchin and Heidi Heitkamp and Joe Donnelly, they decided to come across, but the rest of the Democrats—Claire McCaskill, Debbie Stabenow, Tammy Baldwin—they know that Republicans and Democrats in their states voted for Donald Trump because they wanted to see him appoint a Supreme Court Justice. But they have decided to go with their political party over the will of the people of their states. I think there will be ramifications for them, and their voters are going to have to take note that they decided to filibuster successfully—for the first time in history—filibuster a Supreme Court nominee who was immensely qualified, had bipartisan support, impeccable credentials, and why did they do it? Because they’re not there to serve the people of their state. They’re there to serve their political party.
What’s more, McDaniel took issue with Democratic leadership embracing the far-leftwing outside-the-mainstream “resist” movement against President Trump and his highly popular agenda. She predicted that Democrats will pay a serious price for throwing in with hardcore progressives in ways that in many cases undermine the voters in their states. She said:
They’ve been completely obstructive to anything the President is trying to accomplish. Their leadership used rhetoric like ‘resist’—that’s their new buzzword, ‘resist.’ What are you resisting? Are you resisting fixing healthcare that’s falling apart and helping millions of Americans whose premiums are going up? Are you resisting better jobs? Are you resisting better trade deals for people in my state of Michigan? Are you resisting coal jobs? What are they resisting? The Democratic leadership has decided ‘we are not going to help or come to the table on anything.’ It’s unprecedented. Barack Obama had more good will or support from Republicans. He certainly didn’t deal with these for Supreme Court nominees. I think the voters are going to look at this and say the Democrat Party is the ‘party of no.’ They’re the party of going to Washington and getting nothing done. And the Republican Party and President Trump are the ones out there trying to make our lives better. They’re fighting for our jobs, they’re fighting for better healthcare, and we’re going to see that come up in the midterms as we continue to gain seats.
McDaniel says that the legacy, establishment media outlets—dubbed the “opposition party” by President Trump and his chief strategist former Breitbart News executive chairman Stephen K. Bannon—have been over-the-top and unfair to President Trump. She says that the media seems uninterested in reporting on anything that President Trump does that is positive for the voters like those in her home state of Michigan who sent Trump to the White House. She went on to say:
It’s hard to watch the media not give our president a chance. And I actually went to dinner last night with a girlfriend of mine from Maryland and she actually said to me ‘I can’t even turn on the news anymore. I don’t even know what’s true anymore.’ I mean, that’s where it’s gotten. It’s a sad state when they have an agenda, it feels like they don’t want to give him an opportunity to succeed. And it feels like they are putting opinions out there as journalists and not giving a balanced view of what’s happening in Washington. We’re not hearing about the deregulation. We’re not hearing about Ford investing jobs in Michigan, or Carrier—we’re not hearing about these things. There are great stories to tell but we’re not hearing these things. That’s what seems so unbalanced and unfair, and our president deserves a chance.
But McDaniel is most concerned with holding together Trump’s new populist coalition with the rest of the Republican Party. Being a member of the Romney family—she is the 2012 GOP presidential nominee’s niece—but also from the rust belt state of Michigan, McDaniel is a walking contradiction inside the GOP. She is blue collar enough to appeal to the grassroots and American workers—including crossover union worker Democrats, dubbed “Trumpocrats”—who handed Trump the win in states like hers. But she’s also got deep enough ties into the GOP establishment and donor class community to be able to hold together the old elements of the GOP with the new elements as it becomes the party of Trump.
McDaniel finds herself atop a party that has been in recent years–to put it mildly–splintered by infighting, but hope is not lost for GOP unity. She may be just the person–as a Romney family member who also has deep personal ties to the very populist nationalist rust belt voters who fueled Trump’s revolution–to unite the party behind the president and his agenda. McDaniel, throughout her interview with Breitbart News, easily explained the frustrations of those Trump voters across America–and was clear in articulating support for the president’s populist policy viewpoints on trade and the economy.
She bashed the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) that President Trump ripped up, and praised the president for his role in bringing Ford and General Motors jobs back to Michigan. And as the newly instated chairwoman of the RNC, she could be the missing GOP link that bridges together that populist wing of the party with an increasingly distant establishment wing–welding together a lasting coalition that Trump and his advisers predict could keep Trump-like Republicans in power for decades if done right.
McDaniel told Breitbart News that the most potent political weapon that President Trump has brought to the Republican Party is that coalition that won him the rust belt—from Pennsylvania through Ohio up to Michigan and over to Wisconsin—and its 64 electoral votes. Part of her job at the RNC is to marry that new wing of the GOP that Trump has brought in with the more traditional Republicans—and keep the two sides talking, and discussing Trump’s victories and achievements.
We know who those voters are. We had a data sharing agreement with the Trump campaign, the RNC did, which he generously agreed to. We have to continue to interact with, message with and engage with those voters on a regular basis. So we’re letting them know when he’s in Michigan and adding more jobs and focusing on the Michigan economy and we have to message that to them and show them the action behind the campaign promises. So far, we’re seeing that those voters are still for Donald Trump, they’re still engaged with him. We’re going to continue to build that coalition going into 2018 and into 2020.
McDaniel added that the reason why Trump won Michigan—her state—is because he zoned in on that populist message, something he has already begun delivering on in the White House:
First of all, President Trump showed up in our state and had a conversation with our voters and his message really resonated. He talked about fair trade, he talked about jobs and the economy and national security, but he really talked about how people in Michigan—many of them—felt left behind, that many of them haven’t had a voice in Washington. They’re not represented by lobbyists or the politically elite. He said ‘I’m going to go to Washington, you deserve somebody who’s going to be a voice for you and be a champion for the things that you care about and somebody who is going to get things done.’ I think that really resonated with Michiganders, and we’re seeing that it is still resonating even with Democrats who crossed over and independents who felt like Donald Trump represented a new voice for them. He’s delivering. We’ve already seen an investment come back to Michigan from Ford and GM, we’ve seen him pull out of TPP, he’s talked about the need to go away from multilateral trade deals to bilateral. Those are the type of things that are going to continue to resonate with voters in Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin.
She said the Democrats, particularly Clinton’s campaign, were shocked when they realized in the final week that Trump might win Michigan.
“Bill, and Barack Obama came, and Bill again—now she did go to Grand Rapids, which was smart,” McDaniel said. “I know a lot of people thought that wasn’t smart, but we knew our numbers were not at the Romney levels—I was so glad the President came to Grand Rapids to finish off the election. But they [the Democrats] were panicking. They blanketed the airwaves with all anti-Trump ads—everything. No vision, nothing put forward.”
But Trump’s win in Michigan was not a surprise to her—in fact, polling and other indicators as far back as the summer of 2016 were hinting it might break for Trump, she said. McDaniel went on:
They weren’t listening to even their Democrats in the state who said ‘there’s something going on here.’ But they also didn’t have a ground game. The RNC, we were investing in Michigan two years before. I knew, probably in June—I was getting polling from Macomb and Monroe and the upper peninsula in our statehouse seats. Trump was doing so well, and the RNC was investing in that door knocking so we started to recognize the shift in the voters. They [the DNC and Clinton campaign] weren’t on the ground, so they weren’t seeing it. We put offices in Macomb, we put offices in the UP, and we put offices down river—places that aren’t traditionally Republican areas—and we knew that ‘we’ve got to go knock this many doors this weekend, we’ve got to be in these precincts.’ They [Democrats] just didn’t have the data or the intelligence. They were using predictive modeling without that human component of knocking doors. They missed it because they assumed they had it. The night of the election, the Democrat chair and I—we spent a lot of time together, so after we finished interviews we said ‘you tell me what your polling is saying and I’ll tell you what my polling is saying.’ Because my polling was saying that Trump was going to win by 8,000 votes, and that’s the RNC. It was right. His said ‘we’re going to win by 5 points.’ So when you think you’re going to win a state by 5 points, of course you don’t invest. You just don’t. It changes your compass. That’s why the data and ground game are so critical. I think Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania are just—when you’re winning on the margins, it’s your get-out-the-vote and who had the better ground game on top of having a phenomenal candidate.
Not only is McDaniel readying the GOP for the midterms, but she is also preparing the party for President Trump’s reelection in 2020—which she thinks may even lead to as big a victory as Ronald Reagan had in 1984 when he won 49 states in his reelection—and she sees the next cycle after this one as a place to build up the highly successful party even more. She told Breitbart News:
We’re focusing on 2020 right now. We’ve got—the great thing is, with the states we’ve won in 2016 we’ve got this new corridor, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Ohio, Indiana, we already have the infrastructure there and we have Senate races in all of those states too so we’ll continue to build that. Then we go into 2020 and looking at what we’re seeing from the White House with tax reform and infrastructure and the things they’re going to put in place, yeah I could see a big win. We just got to keep that momentum going into the midterms. That’s when they’re going to put their best efforts forward.
Another top mission for McDaniel is exposing Democrats and particularly her counterparts in the Democratic National Committee (DNC). Newly elected DNC chair Tom Perez said at a rally recently in Newark, New Jersey, that Republicans “don’t give a shit about people.”
Tom Perez won't apologize for saying Republicans "don't give a shit about people" https://t.co/YdBCbG8eXe
— Dave Weigel (@daveweigel) April 2, 2017
When asked to respond to Perez’s comments—for which he has refused to apologize—McDaniel blasted the DNC and the Democratic Party for moving so far outside the mainstream to the radical left. She said:
It shows how left the Democratic Party is going and how unreasonable and unhinged they’ve really become. To have the Democratic chair say that Republicans don’t give a bleep about people and then to not backtrack and to not have people within his own party denounce those statements, it just shows they’re not willing to work with the Republicans on anything. And two, they’re going to double down on the rhetoric that he’s using to continue to divide and create opposition to anything President Trump wants to accomplish.
At that rally in Newark, Perez also inaccurately stated that President Trump “didn’t win the election.” McDaniel told Breitbart News in response to Perez’s false claims that Trump did not win:
This is what the Democrats have been doing.They continue to try to delegitimize the president. He won. We know he won by an overwhelming electoral margin. But they’re also delegitimizing the voters, people like the voters in my state of Michigan—people who President Trump came and talked to, and cared about their issues and said ‘I’m going to go to Washington and be a champion for you’ and the Democrats are refusing to acknowledge that they lost those voters and that President Trump presented a vision that they believed in.
One chief method that Democrats have been using to attempt to undermine and “delegitimize” President Trump, McDaniel told Breitbart News, is the narrative on Russian intervention in the U.S. election. McDaniel said she is confident that not only will Trump be vindicated in the end as a result of the various investigations on Capitol Hill, but that there may be some serious questions regarding ex-Obama administration officials like former National Security Adviser Susan Rice and others when it comes to potentially unlawful surveillance of the Trump campaign and transition, questionable unmasking of Trump campaign officials in collected surveillance, and the eventual likely illegal leaking of said intelligence information to the media.
The House Intelligence Committee and the Senate Intelligence Committee are investigating everything having to do with Russia and I expect we will find there is no there there when it comes to the Trump campaign. I do think we need to figure out where these leaks are coming from, and as it relates to Susan Rice and her involvement in unmasking Trump campaign officials and taking their names from essentially being classified to unclassified—I think we need to figure out why she did that and why she would have allowed that to happen. She has a credibility issue. This is the Susan Rice that went on TV after our ambassador was killed [in Benghazi] and said that it was prompted by a spontaneous event due to a video. We know now that it was an orchestrated terrorist attack to kill our ambassador. She was dishonest with the American people then, and we need to figure out if she’s being honest with the American people right now.
While the DNC faced serious problems post-election electing a new chair—Perez was locked in a bitter battle with Rep. Keith Ellison (D-MN) for their party’s reins, and now Ellison serves as Perez’s deputy at the DNC—the RNC, McDaniel says, was up and running quickly post-election:
I had to hit the ground running. I knew there’s not a ton of time to build a nationwide infrastructure. Two years isn’t a lot of time, especially with what the RNC does in investing in the ground game. First, it’s raising the resources to be able to put your ground game in place. We had a record post-presidential-election in January—the largest in history for the RNC—we’re continuing to build that finance structure but we’re already putting state directors in place. We have regional political directors in place. We’re continuing to reach our grassroots. We’re working with state parties on messaging. And we’re going to continue to build that operation out into 2018. We’ve hit the ground running. The Democrats are playing catch-up, but they’ve figured out they’ve got to work harder to work with their state parties and build those mechanics—something they neglected in 2016.
Ryan Mahoney, the GOP’s new communications director who took over the position as Sean Spicer left to serve as the Trump White House’s Press Secretary, pointed out during Breitbart News’s interview with McDaniel that somebody should ask the DNC why they have not done an “autopsy report,” like the Republican National Committee did in the wake of the 2012 election.
“I don’t want them to figure out what they did wrong,” McDaniel joked in response. “They really are missing it. I think they’re making a mistake with Gorsuch. I think they’re overplaying it. I’m fine. Keep missing the ball, because they never got it in Michigan. Hillary Clinton never figured it out. People are hurting.”