Our Editorial: Ronna Romney McDaniel has big job ahead


Ronna Romney McDaniel’s political bloodline is longer than her political resume. President-elect Donald Trump’s surprise choice to lead the Republican National Committee has a relatively skimpy history as a GOP organizer and activist.

We watched in admiration as she navigated the Michigan GOP through the 2016 campaign melodrama with such a sure hand.

Romney McDaniel is most famously a niece of Mitt Romney, the failed 2012 Republican presidential nominee. She’s also the granddaughter of former Michigan Gov. George Romney.

Her mother, Ronna Romney, ran for the U.S. Senate from Michigan and lost. Her father, Scott Romney, is a lawyer long active in Republican affairs.

As for experience, Romney McDaniel on paper might seem a little light. When she took over as chair of the Michigan Republican Party two years ago, it was her first major job in politics.

Prior to that, the mother of two had worked for firms that produced political advertising and marketing material, had helped out on both her mother’s and uncle’s campaigns and, in 2013, chaired the state GOP leadership conference on Mackinac Island. But she certainly didn’t play like a neophyte in the 2016 elections.

Romney McDaniel is credited with helping Trump achieve his unlikely win in Michigan, the first Republican presidential candidate to capture the state since 1988.

In addition, her leadership helped the GOP turn back what promised to be a serious Democratic Party effort to recapture a majority of the state House. She recruited candidates and raised funds to keep the GOP’s hold intact. The party didn’t lose a single seat, rare for the majority in a midterm election.

And when Jill Stein’s recount campaign came to Michigan, Romney McDaniel worked with the GOP team to defeat it in court. Her reward is Trump’s backing to be the next chair of the Republican National Committee when party representatives vote in January.

Romney McDaniel will face a number of tough assignments in her new role. Her top priority should be maintaining the Republican majority in the 2018 U.S. Senate elections. Republicans now have a 52-48 advantage in the chamber.

That’s a narrow edge. The party holding the White House typically loses congressional seats in midterm elections. If three seats turn to Democrats, it would be a major roadblock for Trump’s agenda. But Republicans are sitting pretty at this point. The GOP is expected to be defending just eight seats in 2018, compared to an expected 23 Democratic seats that will be up.

The second and perhaps more important priority for Romney McDaniel is uniting a party that did not rally 100 percent behind Trump. Many of the party’s most prominent leaders, including the Bush family and her Uncle Mitt, formed the core of the Never Trump movement and did not support the candidate with either their endorsements or their dollars.

Romney McDaniel must find a way to bring them back into the fold and energize the large donors on behalf party candidates for Congress and down the ticket.

Republicans won an unexpected victory with an unlikely candidate in 2016. It will be Romney McDaniel’s job to work with the White House to turn that into broad and sustainable momentum.