DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — President-elect Donald Trump wants Michigan Republican Party Chairwoman Ronna Romney McDaniel to be national party chairwoman, in part as a reward for the party carrying Michigan for the first time in 28 years.
The choice of McDaniel to serve as Republican National Committee chairwoman was confirmed Tuesday night by a person familiar with Trump's decision. The person asked for anonymity because the announcement has not yet been made.
The niece of 2012 GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney also earned credit with Trump by faithfully supporting him after he won the party's 2016 nod, despite sharp criticism from her famous uncle.
"Ronna McDaniel, what a great job you and your people have done," Trump told thousands at Deltaplex Arena in Grand Rapids, Michigan, last Friday. "I was very impressed with you. She didn't sleep for six months!"
Trump's decision also marks a key victory for outgoing RNC Chairman Reince Priebus.
As Trump's incoming White House chief of staff, Priebus, who guided the at times unwieldy Trump through the general election, supported McDaniel as his replacement. Other Trump loyalists were urging him to name Nick Ayers, a close adviser to Vice President-elect Mike Pence.
While Trump's team has said there's no outright power struggle, Trump's deliberations over secretary of state were seen as an indicator of influence between Priebus and senior adviser Steve Bannon. Priebus was seen as supporting Mitt Romney to become Trump's secretary of state. On Tuesday, Trump named Exxon Mobil CEO Rex Tillerson as his choice for the nation's top diplomat.
McDaniel would seem to validate Priebus' performance as the chairman who turned around the financially strapped committee and ended its presidential losing streak. McDaniel would probably maintain the strategy of early spending in states, digital data and local party infrastructure, RNC insiders said.
"They said a Republican could never win Michigan," McDaniel told the audience in Grand Rapids Friday. "I knew better. You knew better and Donald Trump knew better."
For her work in Michigan, part of a swath of northern states that had eluded Republicans since the 1980s, McDaniel is the right call, said Henry Barbour, a Republican National Committeeman from Mississippi. Trump defied decades of precedent by also carrying Pennsylvania and Wisconsin — once-powerful, working-class Democratic states where manufacturing in smaller cities has declined.
McDaniel, 43, would face immediate pressure to hold onto control of Congress in 2018.
"I think she can help us hold a lot of these Rust Belt Democrats who voted for Donald Trump with good leadership and execution," said Barbour. "Plus, she was willing to step out and support our nominee when her very famous uncle was doing the opposite. Now, that's leadership."
Trump's choices for RNC chairman and other party leadership positions carry immense sway with its members, who will vote on the team early next year.
Should the committee approve Trump's recommendation, McDaniel would become the second woman to be elected RNC chairman, and the first in 40 years.
That's a good sign for the party and Trump, said Michigan Republican Bob LaBrant, considering the 2005 recordings of Trump making sexually degrading remarks that were released during the campaign.
"That sends a signal we need to send right now," said LaBrant, former political director for the Michigan Chamber of Commerce. "And Ronna is the right one to carry the message."
Bykowicz reported from Washington. Follow Thomas Beaumont on Twitter at https://twitter.com/TomBeaumont