In a recent interview, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis sat down with Turning Point USA founder Charlie Kirk to talk about how new leadership is needed in the Republican National Committee (RNC), as the committee gathers to vote on its leadership.
"We’ve had three substandard election cycles in a row, ’18, ’20, and ’22, and I would say of all three of those, ’22 was probably the worst, given the political environment of a very unpopular President Biden, huge majorities of the people think the country is going in the wrong direction. That is an environment that’s tailor-made to make big gains in the House and Senate and state houses all across the country, and yet that didn’t happen," DeSantis said.
"You know, I think we need change," he continued. "I think we need to get some new blood in the RNC."
DeSantis said, "I like what Harmeet Dhillon has said about getting the RNC out of DC," questioning why "would you want to have your headquarters in the most Democrat city in America?"
"I do think we need some fresh thinking and — here’s the thing, just practically speaking, you need grassroots Republicans to power this organization with volunteering and donations," DeSantis continued. "I think it’s going to be very difficult to energize people to want to give money, to want to volunteer their time with the RNC if they don’t see a change in direction."
In response to Kirk asking if DeSantis had any personal experience with the RNC, "because they'll say that Florida was one of their great successes this last cycle," DeSantis said that "we actually ran our election, assuming we weren't going to be involved with the RNC at all."
He said this was because "they weren't raising the type of money that they needed to be raising," so "we funded" the state’s get out the vote ground operations, which focused on low-propensity voters.
"So it was very successful, you know, but that was really being driven by our agenda, our accomplishments, and us putting a lot of dollars behind this important ground game," DeSantis said.
In regards to other ideas that the RNC could embrace to have a path forward toward victory, DeSantis said that the RNC needs to be "less consultant-driven."
"This money that's going in needs to go to ultimately winning elections and not to be lining the pocket of so many consultants. So we need huge transparency on that," said DeSantis.
The Florida governor noted that in his reelection campaign, "we had our digital in-house," and "we've got a great fundraising team," adding that "we're not giving commissions to you. We pay them a salary."
"You can't have incentives to where the campaigns and the operations are run with an eye to putting more money in the pocket of the consultant class," he said. "And obviously, they're very powerful in DC."
DeSantis said that the RNC also needs to be "really in touch with our voter base," saying that one of the reasons he did so well on his reelection in Florida is "because our base voters knew governor's gonna going to do the right thing. I trust him. He's got our back."
"There's not a lot of trust between the grassroots and the RNC up in DC. In fact, when I would do fundraising, I'd raise money for the Republican Party of Florida, we would do good, but if I did fundraising for me instead of for the party, we'd raise much more money, because they trust the people that they see doing the job," DeSantis said.
DeSantis said that "we need to restore that trust, because ultimately, you want to have an organization that's going to be able to help in a lot of these key races. It's very important."
In regards to controversial voting methods like ballot harvesting and early in-person voting, DeSantis said that Republicans in states where these actions are allowed should embrace them to be on the same playing field as the Democrats.
"If it's legal in your state, you've got to exploit the rules as they exist. So in Nevada, if it's legal Republicans need to have a ballot harvesting operation in these rural counties. I would do Zuckerbucks in these places. I think Zuckerbucks is corrupt as hell. But if it's legal, and the Democrats are doing it, why aren't we doing it?" DeSantis said.
DeSantis added that people should "fight for whatever election reforms you think matter," but "if it's not banned, you need to do it because otherwise, we're fighting with one hand tied behind our back."
DeSantis' comments come as Dhillon slammed current RNC chair Ronna McDaniel for holding the leadership meeting at the ritzy Waldorf Astoria Monarch Beach in Dana Point, California.
"At a time of economic catastrophe in our country, when we are losing elections, I would have made a different choice if I were the chair," Dhillon told the Daily Mail, saying that she "would have chosen a venue that is easy to get to and also on a par with what our voters and activists would like to see us doing."
In December it was revealed that Dhillon would be challenging the three-term leader for her seat, with Dhillon saying in a statement at the time, "After three successive terms of underwhelming results at the polls for the GOP, all the while with leaders congratulating ourselves for outstanding performance, I feel that we owe it to our voters to have a serious debate about the leadership of the party and what we must change to actually win in 2024."
Dhillon has received support from across the GOP, including Fox News host Laura Ingraham and RNC donor Mike Rydin, who in a statement to fellow RNC members slammed the RNC’s current direction.
"The people who are trying to destroy this country know what they are doing and too many in our party are clueless. We need a leader who understands why this is happening, how to fight it, and who wants to fight it. This leader is Harmeet Dhillon," he wrote.
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