Former RNC chair weighs in on next GOP leader, doubts election deniers will be an issue

NOW: Former RNC chair weighs in on next GOP leader, doubts election deniers will be an issue

MADISON, Wis. (CBS 58) -- This week, Republicans will look to reshape the national party by electing a new leader.

Ronna McDaniel announced she will step down as chairwoman of the Republican National Committee on Friday. While the move was expected, the Republican tapped by former President Donald Trump to replace her is causing some concern.

McDaniel will leave after being forced out of the GOP national leadership job she took over in 2017. The 50-year-old has been a strong advocate for Trump and helping Milwaukee organize the Republican National Convention, but the MAGA base has largely blamed her for the former president's 2020 loss and a series of GOP defeats.

Now, four months before Milwaukee's convention, the party is looking to elect someone else to better suit Trump's desires.

Reince Priebus, the former RNC chairman before McDaniel and now leader of the Milwaukee Host Committee, said of electing a new chair, "it's not going to change a whole lot."

"I really don't see a whole lot of upheaval or changes at the RNC," Priebus told CBS 58.

Michael Whatley, North Carolina's GOP chairman, is Trump's pick to lead the RNC.

Whatley won Trump's support in part because of his focus on election integrity issues. He's also previously backed the former president's baseless claims the 2020 election was stolen and falsely states there was "massive fraud" in Milwaukee.

When asked about his ties to election denialism, Priebus downplayed Whatley's views and the impact it could have on the party.

"I don't have any concerns about his positions when it comes to elections," Priebus said. " I don't buy into a lot of theories that have been out there, but I do buy into some of them and some of them are that the rules were changed for Covid."

Priebus, Trump's former White House chief of staff, took aim at guidance the bipartisan Wisconsin Elections Committee made during the pandemic such as allowing absentee ballot drop boxes. That issue has since been deemed illegal by the courts and is currently being relitigated.

Even though Trump hasn't officially clinched the 2024 GOP nomination, he's the dominant frontrunner who continues to spew falsehoods about the presidential election on the campaign trail.

Priebus dismissed questions regarding whether he has any concerns the party would have to cater to election deniers if Trump is the nominee.

"No," Priebus said. "I think the Republican Party is going to cater to the Republican Party nominee, that's what the party does."

He added, "I think the concern is that we want to make sure the election is fair. We want to make sure the laws are being followed, not the rules that people create that are not congruent with state law."

Sources say some Republicans are weary that Trump's false claims of voter fraud could add conflict in the party. While Whatley is not on the same level as Trump, Republicans point out he hasn't denied his election rhetoric either.

Democrats have been highly critical of Whatley, calling him an "election denier in chief" for the RNC.

"He represents exactly the MAGA extremism voters in Wisconsin, and in other battleground states, have rejected over and over again," said Ben Wikler, chairman of the Democratic Party of Wisconsin.

"Voters find [election denialism] repellant and you can see in the GOP fundraising numbers it doesn't even excite the most loyal members of the RNC."

To become the next chair, Whatley needs to win over a majority of the RNC's 168 members. An election is set to take place March 8 in Houston.

Share this article: