AP Photo/Michael Wyke

OPINION: Don’t Believe the Doom-and-Gloom Crowd; the Changes at the RNC Are Overwhelmingly Positive

Call me crazy, but when Democrats hyperventilate over something Republicans are doing politically and say the strategy is ill-advised or will lead to disaster, I tend to think the strategy might have some merit. Since that’s been their reaction to the swift changes enacted at the Republican National Committee, you can assume they think the changes are good for Republicans – or at least are capable of being good for Republicans.

Just four business days into their term, RNC chair Michael Whatley, co-chair Lara Trump, and chief of operations Chris LaCivita have been extremely busy restructuring the organization. As we reported Monday night, political director Elliott Echols and one of his top staffers, Tripp Looser; communications director Keith Schippert; Mike Mears (chief of staff to former co-chair Drew McKissick); and the lead data director were all given their walking papers. We also reported at that time that an email went out to staff from Sean Cairncross, LaCivita’s number two, stating that all existing vendor contracts were going to be reviewed.

READ MORE: BLOODBATH: Mass Layoffs at the RNC; More Than 60 Staffers Will Be Let Go

We now know that every one of the RNC’s regional political directors, state directors, RNC Community Center staffers, and members of its election-integrity team were fired. Some of those let go were informed that they could reapply for their old positions, and the rest were simply let go but paid until the end of March.

In addition, there will be some physical restructuring with the digital and finance teams relocating to Palm Beach, Florida, closer to the Trump campaign’s operation. Sources with knowledge of restructuring discussions tell RedState more decentralization of the RNC’s operations – meaning, focusing outside of Washington, D.C. – is likely to occur shortly.

As we reported Monday evening, some of the restructuring is meant to avoid operational duplication and to more easily align messaging and efforts in the field. Danielle Alvarez, a former Trump campaign staffer who’s now working in the RNC communications, told the New York Post that the Trump campaign and the RNC “had joined forces, but as much as it’s allowed by law.” She continued:

We wanted to streamline everything. We wanted to make sure there were no operational redundancies. We’re making sure that all of our resources are out in the field and making sure that we are in one battle with them.
It’s not unprecedented, it’s happened in the past. It probably more closely mirrors what 2016 looked like than 2020. Because in 2020 there was a lot of duplication within each organization.

There’s been lots of activity in the election integrity arena as well. Chairman Whatley formerly served as the RNC’s general counsel and was charged with election integrity efforts but wasn’t given the budget or much strategical assistance in that task, and while Ronna McDaniel claimed there was a robust election integrity effort, there truly was not. As my colleague over at Townhall, Kurt Schlichter, noted

What is the Republican lawfare plan? Well, Ronna McDaniel insists that the RNC has 70+ lawsuits going on out there. I don’t believe her, but let’s assume that’s true. Who’s in charge of this massive operation?
. . .
But are the Republicans getting this right? A bunch of random lawsuits is not a legal operation. It’s a bunch of random lawsuits. Here’s how I know if an operation is going to be unsuccessful. I ask who is in charge, and I don’t get an answer. Well, that’s what I did at CPAC. I asked around and a whole bunch of big wheels in Republican politics did the same thing when I asked who is in charge of fighting the legal battle and coordinating it across the country. They shrugged. They don’t know. They have no idea who’s in charge or what the plan is, or even if there’s a plan at all.

LaCivita brought in Charlie Spies, one of the most experienced Republican election law attorneys out there, as chief counsel, and former Trump attorney Christina Bobb as senior counsel for election integrity. And rather than waiting until after election day to act, this RNC promises to be proactive. LaCivita told an interviewer:

The RNC’s new posture as it relates to litigation is much more offensive and much less defensive.

There’s already been action on that front; on Wednesday the RNC filed a lawsuit against Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson to compel her to clean up the state’s voter rolls pursuant to the National Voter Registration Act. The complaint alleges that in 53 of Michigan’s 83 counties, there are more registered voters than adults of voting age. Obviously Michigan is going to be a key battleground state; ensuring that excess voters aren’t on the rolls is a logical step to take, and to take immediately.

While McDaniel made a big to-do about opening dozens of RNC community centers in minority communities during the 2022 campaign and planned to ramp those back up this year, the new leadership is making changes to those centers but not shutting them down, as was falsely reported by numerous outlets throughout the week. Lara Trump corrected the record on that with Martha McCallum Thursday afternoon:

By all accounts, the community centers under McDaniel were not very effective, mostly because the people involved in leading them were not members of the community and there wasn’t an overarching vision or plan to be a permanent part of the community. Sources say the new leadership will reinvigorate those centers.

RELATED: RNC Shut Down 75 Percent of Its Hispanic Outreach Centers, Claims Money Isn’t the Issue

Another key RNC program under McDaniel was Bank Your Vote, which focused on getting Republicans to vote early, whether in-person or by mail, depending on their state of residence. Whatley’s RNC is turning that into a “Grow the Vote” program aimed at expanding outreach programs to minority voters, according to the Washington Post.

In general, LaCivita is expected to bring discipline and focus to the team. John Ashbrook, who ran the Preserve America SuperPAC with LaCivita in 2020 said of him, “You can expect a Marine’s approach to politics. He’ll arm the building with people who want to win and demand results.” A senior Trump campaign official told Axios:

Trump’s team wants to make the RNC less siloed than in 2020, when his second presidential campaign used the RNC largely as a bank. The RNC is expected to take the lead in the GOP’s field operation, to make it easier for the national party to move money to state parties, insiders tell Axios.

  • LaCivita would sign off on key spending decisions, including which vendors the RNC chooses for mailings, polling and TV ads.
  • LaCivita and fellow Trump senior adviser Susie Wiles are expected to make budget recommendations for both the RNC and the Trump campaign.
  • Between the campaign, the RNC and supporting GOP committees, it’s expected to amount to a $1 billion-plus enterprise.

Part of winning includes “being smart with donor money,” which is another reason these changes are being made, as Trump adviser Jason Miller said on Fox News this week. 

All of those plans don’t matter if the RNC can’t raise the money to enact them. There’s good news on that front, too – Lara Trump announced Thursday that the RNC had its largest digital fundraising weekend since 2020 last weekend and that she had $2.7 million pledged.

There will undoubtedly be more information about restructuring efforts and specific actions taken in the next few weeks, but leadership’s off to a pretty impressive start.

Of course, those who were comfortable with the status quo have been concern trolling, saying making these major moves so close to the general election is unwise.

According to the Washington Post, former chair Ronna McDaniel was “blindsided by the speed of the changes.” However, the new RNC leadership doesn’t have a minute to waste in attempting to create an infrastructure for a robust GOTV program, fundraise, mount necessary legal challenges, and prepare to identify and fight ballot fraud in November. Major change involves major risk, but with what’s on the line, I’d rather risk that some things fall through the cracks in this sprint of an effort than approach November with scattered messaging, wasteful spending, and an invisible election integrity legal team. 

Some former RNC employees ran to the Washington Post with their concern trolling, alleging that everything was about Trump, Trump, Trump.

“There won’t be a RNC operation to help the greater party. They don’t care about the greater party,” said a former RNC official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to protect future job prospects. “The RNC is important to lots of people in down-ballot elections. They’re cutting off any service that doesn’t provide help to anyone but Donald Trump. It’s just all about Trump.”

What an asinine comment. If Jocelyn Benson is forced to remove thousands of names from Michigan’s voter rolls because they’re dead or moved or whatnot, that helps every single candidate in Michigan, not just Trump. Similar lawsuits are likely to be filed in other battleground states, helping down-ballot candidates in those states, too. RNC’s “Grow the Vote” efforts won’t just help the top of the ticket. For Trump to fully enact his agenda he’ll need Republicans to control the House and the Senate, so it’s ignorant to think that he and the RNC will only care about the presidential election.

Some Republicans are also concerned that the RNC will be used to pay Trump’s legal bills, citing some of Lara Trump’s media appearances before the RNC election. She’s walked those comments back, and on Thursday stated that the RNC is not paying any of her father-in-law’s legal bills. LaCivita has pledged on numerous occasions that the RNC will not spend money on any of Trump’s legal bills – and I will be watching to ensure that’s the case.

As conservatives, we’re natural skeptics and don’t trust bureaucracies or political machines to do the right thing. We should absolutely continue that skepticism. However, based on my hundreds of hours of poring over eight years of RNC finances and dozens of hours speaking with vendors, grassroots activists, state party officials, and the 168 members of the national committee, and my background in both political and management consulting I believe that the actions taken so far signal a massive sea change in the culture at RNC headquarters, and one that was sorely needed. 

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