Trump gives ‘shout-out’ to McDaniel during fundraiser

Chad Livengood
Detroit News Lansing Bureau

President-elect Donald Trump praised Michigan Republican Party chairwoman Ronna Romney McDaniel during a Wednesday morning fundraiser in New York and hinted she may play a larger role in GOP politics next year, two Michigan attendees said Thursday.

Trump singled out McDaniel and had her stand up for applause among a crowd of nearly 1,000 Republican donors and heavyweights who attended the transition fundraiser breakfast in Manhattan, said John Rakolta Jr., a Detroit businessman and Trump fundraiser.

“He gave her a nice shout-out,” said Attorney General Bill Schuette, who attended the event. “It was a nice shout-out about (how) Ronna did a great job in Michigan and something about more to come about her or something like that. He did not specify.”

Since Trump became the first Republican to narrowly win Michigan since 1988, McDaniel’s named has been mentioned in GOP circles as a possible person for Trump to install as chair of the Republican National Committee.

Reince Priebus, the current RNC chairman, is stepping down at year’s end to become Trump’s White House chief of staff. Sitting Republican presidents typically get to pick who they want running the RNC.

“I think she’s in the mix,” Rakolta said Thursday. “I think she’s done an incredible job blending an approach of both the grassroots and the establishment and the donors. I think she had this unique ability to bridge it all and do it in a fair, honest and transparent way.”

Trump’s praise for McDaniel in front of a crowd of national GOP bigwigs, lobbyists and close supporters came two days before he will visit Grand Rapids for a Friday night “thank you” tour rally at the Deltaplex Arena.

“My takeaway was that the president-elect feels very strongly about Ronna Romney and the job she did in the general election,” Schuette said in a Thursday telephone interview.

McDaniel will be speaking at the Friday Trump event, said Sarah Anderson, spokeswoman for the Michigan Republican Party.

Anderson confirmed McDaniel attended the fundraiser, but said she is focused on running for re-election as chairwoman of the Michigan Republican Party at the Feb. 10-11 state GOP convention.

“Any speculation to other matters is just that — speculation,” Anderson said.

The Trump fundraiser was held at the Cipriani restaurant near Grand Central Station and the Grand Hyatt in New York City, a building the real estate mogul-turned-president renovated in the 1980s.

Schuette said Trump also praised Ann Arbor real estate developer Ron Weiser, who has raised money for Trump’s campaign and inauguration. Weiser was not in attendance, he said.

The event was a fundraiser for Trump’s transition costs, which Rakolta said are “woefully” underfunded by the federal government.

“They essentially give you a free building to put people in, but that’s about it,” said Rakolta, chairman and CEO of Walbridge construction company in Detroit.

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Twitter: @ChadLivengood