By Jeff Zeleny, Kaitlan Collins and Daniel Strauss, CNN
(CNN) — Republican National Committee chairwoman Ronna McDaniel has offered to leave her position following the South Carolina primary later this month to allow former President Donald Trump to install his own party chair, two party advisers told CNN. She has also discussed those plans with Trump, according to a person a familiar.
RNC spokesperson Keith Schipper told CNN in a statement Tuesday night that “nothing has changed. This will be decided after South Carolina.”
The New York Times was first to report on McDaniel’s future.
McDaniel’s offer to resign comes as tensions between Trump, the front-runner for the Republican presidential nomination, and the RNC have heightened in recent days and as the former president’s team has begun quietly floating names to replace her.
CNN reported earlier Tuesday that North Carolina Republican Party chairman Michael Whatley and South Carolina Republican Party chairman Drew McKissick are among the names being floated by Trump’s team, according to two sources with knowledge of internal discussions.
Whatley, who serves as general counsel of the RNC, has a strong relationship with Trump. Even so, the former president could not unilaterally install him. While Trump can give his endorsement, which would strengthen a contender’s chances, only RNC committee members can elect McDaniel’s replacement as chair.
McKissick and Whatley did not return requests for comment from CNN late Tuesday night.
Florida state Sen. Joe Gruters, a longtime Trump supporter, is also a possibility, according to one source with knowledge of those internal discussions. Trump previously endorsed Gruters and Whatley for officer positions at the RNC, but both lost their respective bids.
The prospect of McDaniel stepping down from her post ahead of Republicans picking a nominee for the 2024 presidential race is highly unusual. McDaniel is one of the longest serving RNC chairs in modern history. She was elected to the post after serving as chairwoman of the Michigan Republican Party, with Trump’s support.
But recently Trump’s view of McDaniel has soured. Trump and his team have been disappointed with the RNC’s finances as the committee is currently experiencing one of its most anemic years of fundraising in the last decade. The former president has also felt that the RNC under McDaniel’s leadership could and should have done more to fight for his candidacy in the 2020 election – including retaining better lawyers to push the former president’s false claims of rampant voter fraud.
Over the last week, as RNC members gathered in Las Vegas for the committee’s winter meeting, Trump began suggesting that if he becomes the presumptive nominee for president he would push for changes to the RNC committee. He said in an interview with Fox News on Sunday that McDaniel “did great when she ran Michigan for me. I think she did OK, initially, in the RNC. I would say right now, there’ll probably some changes made.”
Those comments came after a failed attempt by Trump allies among the 168 RNC committee members to pass a resolution naming him the presumptive nominee. That resolution was withdrawn before the winter meeting.
It’s not unusual for a presidential nominee to essentially take over their party’s national committee. What is unusual here is that Trump is not yet even the Republican nominee but has been able to apply significant pressure to the party chairwoman whom he previously elevated.
That pressure spurred McDaniel to travel to Mar-a-Lago and have a two hour meeting with Trump. That meeting was cordial, according to two sources with knowledge of the discussion. Afterward, Trump said on social media Monday that he would “be making a decision the day after the South Carolina Primary as to my recommendations for RNC Growth,” laying down a clear marker for his plans to get more intimately involved in changes at the committee.
This story has been updated with additional details.
™ & © 2024 Cable News Network, Inc., a Warner Bros. Discovery Company. All rights reserved.