Ronna McDaniel, an ally of President Trump, was reelected Friday to another term as Republican National Committee chair at a party meeting in Amelia Island, Florida.
The meeting of GOP leaders came the same week that supporters of President Trump attacked the U.S. Capitol and when Republicans lost two Senate races in Georgia, which gave Democrats control of the chamber.
"The violence does not represent acts of patriotism, but an attack on our country and its founding principles. Our Founding Fathers established a nation of laws, not a nation of anarchy," McDaniel said on Friday. "As the transition of power continues over the next two weeks, I call on individuals to respect law enforcement, law and order, and our great system of governance."
McDaniel made few references to the president during her remarks before and after her election, except to thank him for his support and to note the share of votes he received from minority groups.
"There's not too many people who would say, 'let's take that woman, a mom from Michigan, and have her run the national party.' And I think that says a lot about his support of women and I've certainly been encouraged and supported by him," McDaniel said. RNC co-Chair Tommy Hicks, another ally of Mr. Trump, was also re-elected on Friday.
McDaniel told Republicans that she was upset about the loss at the top of the ticket in November. But she touted some of the party's wins in the other races on the ballot amid projections that Democrats would have a big night.
"Contrary to what every political pundit in the Beltway Bubble was predicting and not so secretly hoping for, no Blue Wave materialized on Election Day," McDaniel said. Still, just days after the losses in Georgia, she expressed frustration over losing critical elections.
"I am mad and I am not going to let socialism rule in this country," McDaniel said. "I am going to work with every single one of you to make sure we squash it, we take back the House and we take back the Senate in 2022."
Members at the meeting described the week as "bumpy" and a "roller coaster." They condemned the attacks at the Capitol and expressed disappointment about the losses in Georgia. One RNC member, who requested anonymity, told CBS News that many of the discussions during the week have been about how the party moves forward.
"The conversations are soul-searching," the member told CBS News. "We've got to pick ourselves up, move forward and win again. And how do we do that?
There were not many references to President Trump during the general session on Friday. But some members still expect him to have influence in the party moving forward.
"The president is obviously going to have some influence on the party," said Jim DeGraffenreid, an RNC member from Nevada. "There are a lot of people that like the policy decisions that he made over the last four years and so he has very strong support for the things that he did."
During Friday's general session, party leaders made references to pushing for changes to voting laws, something many grassroots GOP activists are urging. McDaniel said the RNC is going to encourage state legislatures to provide more access for poll workers and to enact "meaningful voter ID laws."
"I want to promise the grassroots of our party: we hear you, we hear your frustration. We know that you want us as the Republican National Committee to fight to make sure our elections are fair and free and transparent," McDaniel said. "It is vital to our democracy that every American has faith in our election process."
In addition to the leadership elections, the party meetings present a chance for candidates with future political aspirations to speak to GOP leaders.
On Thursday, former UN Ambassador Nikki Haley and South Dakota Governor Kristi Noem spoke to members at events that were closed to the press. Both Haley and Noem have been mentioned as potential 2024 presidential candidates. Kentucky Senator Rand Paul also spoke on Thursday.
Haley offered a sharp rebuke of President Trump's words and actions since Election Day, telling GOP members that he "will be judged harshly by history."
"President Trump has not always chosen the right words," Haley said, according to a person familiar with her remarks. "He was wrong with his words in Charlottesville, and I told him so at the time. He was badly wrong with his words yesterday. And it wasn't just his words. His actions since Election Day will be judged harshly by history."
Haley called Wednesday's attack on the U.S Capitol a "terribly sad day for our county" and "un-American." She said Republicans need to lead the way on uniting the country.
"Democrats need to do better. Big tech and social media need to do better. The news media needs to do better," Haley said. "But I am talking about Republicans, too. If we are the party of personal responsibility, we need to take personal responsibility. We can and should talk about our major differences. But we must stop turning the American people against each other – and this Republican Party must lead the way."
Still, Haley said Republicans should "not shy away from our accomplishments" during the Trump administration. She highlighted work on foreign policy such as withdrawing from the Iran nuclear deal, moving the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem and Israel signing diplomatic pacts with Arab nations. On the domestic front, she spoke about economic progress, cutting regulations and judicial appointments.
One of the key goals for Republicans moving into 2022 and 2024 will be trying to win back suburban voters who revolted against President Trump in 2018 and 2020.
"This Republican Party is a home for anyone, because we stand for the principles that matter to everyone. This is not the time to abandon those principles. It is the time to proclaim them, proudly, from the suburbs to the cities to the farms all across the country," Haley said.
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