And President Trump’s support of his close ally is a key reason why McDaniel has the backing of the vast majority of RNC committee members, who are expected to reelect her during the party’s annual winter meeting early next month.
But McDaniel appears to be spotlighting the RNC’s neutrality going forward after Trump leaves the White House on Jan. 20. GOP sources confirm to Fox News that the chair has invited potential 2024 Republican presidential contenders to the confab, which will be held Jan. 6-8 in Amelia Island, Fla. Word of the invitations was first reported by Politico.
“The RNC has to be neutral and I think by inviting a lot of potential 2024 presidential candidates to our meeting in January signals that the party will continue to be neutral,” longtime RNC committee member from Mississippi Henry Barbour told Fox News.
The meeting will take place just two weeks before Trump leaves the White House and President-elect Joe Biden is inaugurated. And it comes as Trump is flirting with a 2024 presidential run of his own in a possible bid to return to the White House. Such a move could potentially freeze out -- for now -- some of the Republicans with national aspirations in the next presidential race.
Trump-backed McDaniel, the niece of Sen. Mitt Romney of Utah, for RNC chair in 2017 after the then-Michigan GOP chair helped deliver the key battleground state for Trump in the 2016 election. As chair, McDaniel has been a top Trump ally during his administration, reelection campaign and current efforts to reverse the presidential election results.
In a letter she sent Wednesday to RNC committee members, McDaniel emphasized that “while I am proud to have the support of President Trump, Senate Majority Leader McConnell, and House Minority Leader McCarthy in my bid for re-election, it is the endorsement of the 168 members of this committee that matters most, and I am incredibly humbled to have the endorsements of over 120 members at this time.”
The letter and the invitations to potential 2024 White House contenders appear to be a move to show that the RNC will remain neutral in primaries going forward, no matter how much of a shadow Trump casts over the party going forward as a former president.
Among those getting invitations, according to a GOP source, are former United Nations ambassador and former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley, Sens. Tom Cotton of Arkansas, Ted Cruz of Texas, Josh Hawley of Missouri, Tim Scott of South Carolina, Marco Rubio and Rick Scott of Florida, and Govs. Ron DeSantis of Florida and Kristi Noem of South Dakota.
Vice President Mike Pence is expected to attend the gathering, and the president has been invited.
Word of the invitations comes amid a slight amount of concerns that McDaniel is too close to Trump.
But Barbour emphasized that McDaniel has “earned the confidence of a large majority of RNC members that she will be neutral. She’s earned that in the way that she’s led the party over the last four years.”
And he noted that “I’m completely comfortable that while she was Donald Trump’s RNC chair, that she was and always will be a neutral and fair chair to all GOP candidates.” Barbour is backing McDaniel, who at this point is the only candidate for party chair.
New Hampshire GOP chair Steve Stepanek, who will also be attending the winter meeting, told Fox News that “I believe that McDaniel will remain neutral.”
Stepanek, who served as Trump’s 2016 campaign chair in New Hampshire, is backing McDaniel’s reelection. He highlighted that “going forward in 2024 she will be fair and even handed with everybody who throws their hat in the right for the presidential nomination.”
Even as he continues to fight the 2020 election results and refuses to concede to Biden, the president this week hinted that he may launch a 2024 campaign.
"It's been an amazing four years. We are trying to do another four years. Otherwise, I'll see you in four years," the president told supporters on Tuesday night at a White House holiday party for RNC members. Two GOP sources who attended the function confirmed the president's comments to Fox News.
Until now, Trump has remained quiet about the possibility of running to reclaim the White House in 2024. "I don't want to talk to 2024 yet," the president told reporters last week.
But behind closed doors, Trump has told advisers that he wants to run again in four years and could potentially announce his bid before or even during Biden's inauguration on Jan. 20, according to reporting on Monday from Fox News chief White House correspondent John Roberts.