“We just can’t afford to take our foot off the gas,” McDaniel said, projecting confidence that he would prevail over Dhillon.

Meanwhile, Dhillon claimed that with stronger leadership, the Republicans «could have won more in the 2022 election, and we’d be ready to win in 2024.»

Friday’s election among the 168-member RNC will follow two days of meet-and-greets, debates and festivities among other typical party affairs. As measured by public statements of support, McDaniel would seem confident: she has more than 100 members publicly endorsing her, while Dhillon has less than 30. (MyPillow CEO Mike Lindell is also running, but few NCR members take him seriously.)

But the bitter tenor of the fight, the enormous stakes for the Republican Party ahead of the 2024 election and the uncertainty of a secret ballot election have elevated the contest to a political battle royale.

On Monday, Dhillon emailed his latest pitch to RNC members, pledging changes including moving his family from California to Washington (McDaniel commutes daily from Michigan), banning «extremely loud entertainment» at RNC events, committee and maintain a «culture of partnership and cooperation. ” within the party.

In the interview afterward, Dhillon went on and on about the failings he sees under McDaniel: the RNC has spent too much on consultants and «frivolous spending that doesn’t win elections.» He has lagged behind Democrats in encouraging voting before Election Day and making sure as many of his voters’ ballots as possible are counted. And, he argued, the party «puffed» in shaping the GOP’s midterm message, arguing that the RNC has to lead, not follow, when the party is out of power.

McDaniel rejected charges that the RNC made mistakes in the midterms, arguing that their efforts to build the party’s infrastructure «made it a better election than it would have been» and that Dhillon and his other critics simply «don’t understand what It’s the job of the RNC.» it really is.»

“The infrastructure we built made it possible for a Republican to make it to the finish line,” he said, noting that nationwide more than 4 million Republican voters turned out than Democrats. «But the difference between why a Republican did and didn’t do it is down to the campaign, the candidate and the messaging, over which the RNC has no control.»

Dhillon said losing Republican candidates like Arizona’s Kari Lake, Pennsylvania’s Mehmet Oz and Georgia’s Herschel Walker had no more flaws than the Democrats who defeated them. Republicans just have to be as «efficient» as Democrats, he said, to attract their voters and make sure their votes are counted.

“John Fetterman couldn’t even speak and articulate for himself for much of his campaign, and he was elected,” he said, referring to the new senator from Pennsylvania, who suffered a stroke mid-campaign. «So I don’t agree with that explanation.»

Hanging over the race is former President Donald Trump, who has ties to both candidates but has not endorsed the race.

Dhillon and McDaniel have this in common: Neither was eager to point the finger at Trump for the GOP’s recent electoral failures, including his role in actively discouraging Republican voters from casting ballots by mail or elevating several of the candidates. most disappointing of the cycle.

But Dhillon is trying to walk a fine line while maintaining a coalition of MAGA fans and Never Trumpers who share an interest in ousting McDaniel. It means taking on some new and nuanced positions for a lawyer who, after the 2020 election, applauded Rudy Giuliani’s suggestion found grounds to overturn the Pennsylvania results, donations requested for Trump’s election defense fund on Twitter, writing an opinion piece on Townhall.com titled “Republican Lawyers Are Fighting to Stop Theft.”

Among those backing Dhillon are Trump fans like activist Charlie Kirk, Arizona Republican Party chair Kelli Ward and Stop the Steal organizer Caroline Wren.

However, in the interview, Dhillon rejected Trump’s claims of a stolen 2020 election and confirmed Joe Biden as the rightful winner. She noted that she did not personally file or litigate any of the lawsuits brought by Trump allies seeking to challenge the election.

“The time to ensure the integrity of an election is before the election,” he said. “And if you haven’t prepared for that, don’t start fighting and hiring lawyers after the fact. It’s too late.»

Meanwhile, McDaniel faces pushback from Trump skeptics who argue that she isn’t pushing hard enough against Trump. In an email to the members of the RNC First reported by the Washington Post, Tennessee committee member Oscar Brock wrote that «the reality is that every time Donald Trump says jump, Ronna asks, ‘How high?'».

McDaniel has responded by repeatedly pledging to keep the 2024 primary process neutral and vowing to bridge divisions within the party. “I’m running a unity campaign, and part of that is, as party chair, not attacking other Republicans,” she said.

But Dhillon said some Republicans have told him they are already skeptical of McDaniel’s assurances, given that he chose Trump loyalist David Bossie to lead the 2024 GOP debates. Meanwhile, McDaniel’s backers have privately raised doubts. about what the RNC would look like under Dhillon, who suggested that she hire the MAGA diehards to run the organization.

The rumor mill campaigns have been relentless, and have been accompanied by an effort to spark a grassroots uprising on Dhillon’s behalf, prompting McDaniel to denounce some of the scorched earth tactics.

A Dhillon ally RNC member contact information postedencouraging Republican voters to harass them into opposing McDaniel, while Kirk, a MAGA activist with a wide following, threatened RNC members in an email last month with replacing them with activists who “better represent the voice of base».

“He is intentionally inflaming passions based on things that are not true,” McDaniel said, warning that the nastiness bodes ill for 2024, “with Republicans attacking other Republicans to the point where we can’t unite afterward.”

Dhillon rejected McDaniel’s suggestion that his unlikely campaign is needlessly dividing the party ahead of a critical presidential election. “This is not personal,” he said. “You have to point out the reasons for the change. I try to do it in the most persuasive and civil way possible.»

While the arithmetic looks formidable for Dhillon, he insisted he still has an «excellent opportunity» to pull off an upset. While POLITICO previously reported that party members believe she has around 60 votes, Dhillon herself declined to discuss numbers.

However, he offered an explanation for why so few members have publicly endorsed it. Some pledged to McDaniel before she entered the race and “don’t want to offend her,” she said, while others are running for leadership positions of their own and don’t want to alienate the incumbent or her supporters. And some, she suggested, fear that their state party’s finances could take a hit if they cross the living chair.

In a belated attempt to cool down the race, Dhillon vowed to work with Republicans he has clashed with, including elected officials like Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell, whom he has attacked on occasion, and even the McDaniel’s own.

“She is an important leader in the party,” Dhillon said, inviting McDaniel to remain in a leadership role. «She has a lot of skills and I’m sure she has things that they could teach me.»