NEW YORK — A decade after its last election autopsy, the Republican National Committee is moving forward with a new post-election audit designed to examine the disappointing performance of the Republican Party in recent midterm elections and the party’s broader struggles in the years since former President Donald Trump assumed power.
The report, likely to take several months to complete, is expected to explore internal concerns about the quality of candidates, the lack of a clear government agenda and the party’s unwillingness to adopt early voting, among other issues. There is some disagreement over the exact focus and scope of the upcoming review, but committee members involved in the planning suggest he won’t shy away from tough topics, including Trump’s intense focus on conspiracy theories.
“We need to figure out what worked and what didn’t work in the 22 loop to make sure we’re in the best position to win in 24. I think there’s a lot to learn from,” said RNC committee member Henry Barbour, of Mississippi, whom RNC President Ronna McDaniel named to co-chair the review.
The decision to consider such a venture represents a rare moment of public introspection from a Republican Party that has defiantly resisted any and all calls to change course during the Trump era. Indeed, for the past six years, the Republican Party has been almost singularly focused on its devotion to Trump and his priorities, even as election losses mounted in 2018 and 2020. The party’s disappointing midterm results earlier in the month marked a sort of breaking point for some committee members, who are now more open to change.
It has been ten years since the RNC last commissioned a post-election audit. The 2013 “Growth and Opportunity Bill” finally called on Republicans to strike a more inclusive and welcoming tone, while also taking a more lenient position on immigration.
Trump embodied everything the report stood for when it appeared in 2015. His stunning White House victory, however, convinced party leaders to ignore his own recommendations, at least for a while.
McDaniel is kicking off the post-2022 review as he faces a serious re-election test of his own within the committee, which he has led since Trump took office in 2016. In a corresponding move designed to demonstrate his political muscle, McDaniel also announced Tuesday the creation from an informal advisory council made up of a collection of 2022 candidates, some successful and some not, and prominent Republican operatives, including former Trump adviser Kellyanne Conway.
The advisory council is not expected to influence the review, which follows pressure on McDaniel to acknowledge a problem within his party. Some RNC members were particularly concerned after she offered an upbeat assessment of the GOP’s performance during a conference call the day after the midterms.
The Republicans won a narrow majority in the House, well below expectations, and failed to win a majority in the Senate. That’s even as Democrats faced historically bad political headwinds.
“I must say that your comments on the call this afternoon were disappointing and showed an incredible unwillingness to face the reality of what happened last night. I heard from many members today who feel the same way and want a real and honest assessment of what happened,” wrote RNC member Bill Palatucci, of New Jersey, in a private email to McDaniel obtained by The Associated Press.
“We have to face the fact that most of our candidates and the party as a whole underperformed by any objective measure,” Palatucci continued. “I wish you the best, but not being willing to address the reality of the situation doesn’t do anyone any good.”
Trump allies are expected to play an active role in the upcoming review.
McDaniel named Harmeet Dhillon, a Trump attorney and California committee member, to serve as the other co-chair. Former Trump campaign manager David Bossie, a member of the RNC from Maryland, is also likely to participate.
Trump loyalists have played an increasingly important role within the RNC, which consists of elected officials from all 50 states and a central staff in Washington. Those who are outspoken critics of Trump have largely been ousted in recent years.
Now, McDaniel is tasked with maintaining unity within his party as a growing number of Republican leaders reject Trump’s influence.
Several Republican presidential candidates are openly preparing to challenge Trump’s bid for the 2024 presidential nomination. In recent days, some of them, including former Vice President Mike Pence, have condemned Trump’s recent private meeting with the white supremacist and anti-Semite. Nick Fuentes.
Despite an apparent party shift, those working on the new review are well aware that their final report cannot alienate Trump or his base, seen as a critical cog in the Republican coalition.
It’s a delicate balance, especially as Democrats work to avoid such divisions of their own ahead of the upcoming presidential election.
“Democrats are united, on how to divide America,” said Conway, the former Trump adviser. “Republicans must be united, on the best way to help a broken nation.”