The pressure is ratcheting up on Ronna McDaniel to step aside as chair of the Republican National Committee but the intraparty revolt has hardly reached critical mass, Republican insiders say.
Republican presidential hopeful Vivek Ramaswamy rolled out a “Fire Ronna” petition website Wednesday, a week after inviting Ms. McDaniel onto the candidates debate stage last week in Miami so she could announce her resignation after another disappointing election cycle for the party.
“I am sick and tired of this Republican establishment that has made us a party of losers,” Mr. Ramaswamy, whose nomination hopes have been fading, said in a statement. “I’m asking grassroots conservatives across the nation to join me so she can feel the power of the people. It’s time to stop the culture of surrender and losing. Resign, Ronna!”
He is not an outlier.
Mr. Ramaswamy has unearthed a deep well of discontent with Ms. McDaniel’s performance, particularly among former President Donald Trump’s grassroots voters.
People inside the Republican Party establishment are feeling the heat, and Mr. Trump, a top McDaniel booster, is uncharacteristically tight-lipped.
“There seems to be some noise being generated now concerning Ronna, and to me, it is all driven by the Trump folks,” said an RNC official speaking privately about the rumblings behind the scenes. “That tells me that they must have somebody in mind to either step in — maybe sooner rather than later.
“You would not be hearing all this noise unless Mr. Trump was on board with it,” the official said before warning that the timing could prove challenging. “It is not easy in the middle of a cycle when you are now less than a year away to replace the leader of the RNC.”
The RNC and the Trump campaign did not respond to requests for comment.
Other Republicans insist Mr. Trump’s polarizing rhetoric and ham-handed endorsements are to blame for the party’s struggles at the ballot box.
What is undeniable is that Mr. Trump put Ms. McDaniel in her post and helped keep her there.
Mr. Trump tapped Ms. McDaniel for the job in 2017 as a reward for helping him become the first Republican presidential candidate since 1988 to carry her home state of Michigan.
His endorsement of her reelection as chairwoman after his loss in the 2020 presidential election was widely read as a first step toward a 2024 White House bid.
Ms. McDaniel survived a challenge from Harmeet Dhillon, an RNC member from California, after the disappointing 2022 midterm elections, when Trump-inspired candidates lost winnable Senate races.
Mr. Trump has been silent about Ms. McDaniel’s future. His campaign did not respond to a request for comment.
Mr. Trump, however, has recently heaped praise on some of the most vocal McDaniel critics, including “warrior” Laura Loomer. The conservative activist in Florida is calling on Mr. Trump to come out against Ms. McDaniel.
Ms. McDaniel has supporters inside the party’s establishment.
Henry Barbour, a longtime RNC member from Mississippi, said the criticism is misplaced.
Mr. Barbour noted that the RNC’s mission is to organize and turn out voters. He said blaming Ms. McDaniel for Virginia legislative losses would be just as misguided as crediting her with victories elsewhere, including Gov. Tate Reeves’ reelection win in Mississippi.
“Whether Tate Reeves won or lost last week, Ronna wouldn’t deserve credit, she wouldn’t deserve blame,” he said. “That race was driven by Tate Reeves and his campaign. The RNC was helpful, but it wasn’t decisive one way or the other.”
Ms. McDaniel has countered Mr. Ramaswamy by questioning his past loyalty to the Republican Party. She said Republican voters have grown tired of the “circular firing squad within the party.”
Ms. McDaniel said the party “defied the odds” on her watch in 2018 by helping elect new Republican senators, setting the table for the confirmation of three conservatives to the Supreme Court.
Republicans also flipped the House in 2022, Ms. McDaniel said.
Nikki Haley, a 2024 Republican presidential contender, said Mr. Ramaswamy has had a penchant for attacking women.
“He might have a girl problem,” Ms. Haley said Wednesday on the “Ruthless” podcast.
Some in the Trump world feel emboldened after one of their own, Rep. Matt Gaetz of Florida, led the rebellion that ended Rep. Kevin McCarthy’s House speakership.
Echoing Mr. Trump, some conservatives are demanding that the RNC cancel further debates and rally around the Trump campaign.
“The RNC is a rotten political machine sputtering on every single cylinder, and its head, Ronna McDaniel, must hold herself accountable for last week’s carnage,” Peter Navarro, a former member of the Trump White House, said this week in an op-ed in The Washington Times. “So, Ronna, end the debates, endorse Mr. Trump, and step aside so we can, in the words of the immortal Al Davis, ‘win, baby, win.’”