Mar 16, 2024 - Politics & Policy

Trump's RNC reverses plans for some cuts after backlash

Illustration of two Republican elephant logos butting heads, with the one on the right getting smaller after every impact.

Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

Donald Trump's new team at the Republican National Committee is reversing its plans to cut the party's community centers for minority voters — and a program to encourage early voting — after a backlash from RNC members.

Why it matters: It's a sign that some of the new RNC leadership's moves — which included firing dozens of staffers — did not go over well with many RNC members.

Zoom in: Some RNC members worry that the Trump team's plans to cut group's resources at the state level will direct more to his presidential campaign at the expense of the party's long-term future.

  • The firings and the Trump team's initial signals about the program cuts seemed to confirm many members' fears about the Trump takeover, which involved installing North Carolina GOP chair Michael Whatley and Lara Trump — the ex-president's daughter-in-law — as the RNC's new leaders.
  • "The Trump campaign should keep in mind, this ain't just about the White House. It's bigger than that, bigger than one candidate," one RNC member told Axios.

Driving the news: Late Thursday, Whatley sent a three-page memo to RNC members saying the programs were safe.

  • "Despite what you may have heard, we are not closing community centers," Whatley wrote.
  • He added that the early voting initiative was safe as well, and "will continue educating and empowering voters to feel confident in early voting and voting by mail."

That's a departure from what Trump's campaign had indicated for months as it prepared to take over the RNC.

  • In January, the RNC stopped signing new leases for community centers after the campaign privately told the party it no longer was interested in prioritizing the centers, two people familiar with the matter told Axios. The Daily Beast and the Messenger have since reported on plans to shutter community centers.
  • "Yeah, well, actually, we are keeping those all open," Lara Trump told Fox News on Thursday.
  • Since last fall, top Trump officials privately had played down the RNC's early voting initiative. The Washington Post reported just three days ago that it would be replaced by another program, citing top Trump officials.
  • Republicans — led by Trump — were highly skeptical of mail-in voting in 2020, as Trump falsely linked the practice to "millions" of fraudulent votes. Some Republicans remain skeptical, but many figure that not embracing early voting would give Democrats an advantage.

What they're saying: "It looks like the RNC is making an adjustment," RNC member Shawn Steel told Axios in an interview Friday. "I hope they will expand the community centers."

  • "I'm glad that [Trump senior adviser Chris] LaCivita and Whatley are tapping the brake and trying to think through some of these changes," another RNC member told Axios.
  • "It's important in states where people can vote early that Republicans participate in that," the member said.
  • "There are probably 1,000,000 Asian American votes in the five battleground states. Community engagement would be fantastically effective. That would include of course legions of African American males and Latinos in general," Steel said.

The big picture: Trump's RNC team cut more than 60 positions last Monday, including nearly all of the state strategies team, which provided communications, digital and data support to state GOP groups.

  • "I don't think it's practical, that they're going to get rid of all those people," another RNC member told Axios. "There's too many things that they're doing — important programs that go beyond our top priority, which is winning the White House."

Trump campaign spokesperson Danielle Alvarez told Axios: "The RNC is undergoing change and is focused on winning in November."

  • "Never Trump Republicans and Democrats may complain as we move from the primary to general election, but our commitment remains the same: Deliver a victory for President Trump, Republicans on the ballot, and the American people."
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