(Bloomberg) -- Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, a potential 2024 presidential contender, is calling for a change in GOP leadership ahead of a bitterly contested election on Friday for Republican National Committee chair.
In an interview with conservative influencer Charlie Kirk, DeSantis said the party needs a change in direction after disappointing results in the past three federal election cycles. He praised California attorney Harmeet Dhillon, who’s challenging RNC Chair Ronna McDaniel.
“We’ve had three substandard election cycles in a row – ’18, ’20, and ’22,” DeSantis told Kirk when asked about the chair election. “I think we need a change, I think we need to get some new blood in the RNC.”
Foreshadowing a possible collision with former President Donald Trump, DeSantis’s support for a change in RNC leadership amounts to another step in the Florida governor’s path to assert himself as a national party leader. Trump hand-picked McDaniel for the RNC job in 2016.
DeSantis said he thinks it will be difficult to energize donors to give to the RNC and find people to volunteer for the party “if they don’t see a change in direction.”
McDaniel has said she’s been publicly endorsed for a fourth term by more than 100 of the 168 RNC members who are eligible to vote on Friday at the party’s annual meeting in California. Dhillon has said she thinks she can win over enough undecideds and members who say they support McDaniel but privately want change after the series of GOP losses.
DeSantis said in the interview with Kirk, who’s supporting Dhillon, that he likes the idea of her moving the RNC headquarters away from Washington. Dhillon, though, has said she would relocate to Washington if she won.
McDaniel’s camp didn’t respond to DeSantis’s comments but has noted how other Florida Republicans, including US Senator Rick Scott, have praised McDaniel’s leadership and investments in the Republican Party of Florida.
The Florida governor took a veiled shot at Trump, who has announced he’s running for president again, by saying Republicans should have done better in the midterm elections last year given the favorable environment for the GOP and President Joe Biden’s unpopularity.
Trump was widely blamed for the GOP’s disappointing results when his hand-picked candidates lost key races, allowing Democrats to expand their majority in the US Senate and win state governorships. Republicans also won a smaller-than-expected majority in the US House.
“That is an environment that’s tailor-made to make big gains in the House, in the Senate, and in statehouses all across the country, and yet that didn’t happen,” DeSantis said.
©2023 Bloomberg L.P.