Republican National Committee chief says Trump's hard line on immigration is no obstacle to GOP gains

Republican Party chairwoman Ronna Romney McDaniel lays out the GOP plan to keep control of Congress in 2018 in a Times interview.

photo Republican National Committee chief says Trump's hard line on immigration is no obstacle to GOP gains images

    Since the collapse of Richard Nixon’s presidency in the Watergate scandal 43 years ago, nothing has shaken the Republican Party more profoundly than Donald Trump’s ascent to the White House.

    He upended party orthodoxy with an agenda that drew a fiercely loyal following of white working-class voters, but left many well-to-do Republicans uneasy as Trump condemned trade deals and vowed to preserve Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid benefits that GOP leaders have long sought to scale back.

    In the opening weeks of his presidency, Trump has tried to avoid friction within the party, leaning to the right on immigration, abortion, the environment, the military and business issues, among others. Apart from resistance from the party’s right wing to his plan to repeal and replace Obamacare, Trump has stayed largely in sync with the Republicans who control Congress

    It’s the job of Ronna Romney McDaniel, 44, the new chairwoman of the Republican National Committee, to make sure the party maintains its dominance in the 2018 and 2020 elections — an uphill task, as she acknowledged in an interview with The Times.

    Here are excerpts from the conversation:

    McDaniel, a former Michigan Republican Party chairwoman, sought to play down conflict within the party over Trump’s vow to resist cuts to Social Security and healthcare benefits for the elderly and the poor.

    These are promises to people who paid into a system with an expectation that they would get benefits back, and he has said time and time again that the way that we’re going to fix the issues that we have with our Social Security system is by growing our economy and expanding growth in the marketplace, and by getting rid of regulations and tackling tax reform. And then when you unleash the economy in this country and we have the type of growth that we need to see, then we’re not going to have the same deficits in those programs.

    McDaniel suggested that even GOP critics are fine with Trump’s cancellation of the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade pact, despite Arizona Sen. John McCain’s calling it “a serious mistake.”

    I think a lot of them recognize that we needed to focus on fair trade more, and that there were some aspects of that deal that could have been better. And the president has not said he’s not going to engage in trade — quite the opposite. He said we’re going to benefit more from more bilateral trade deals rather than multilateral trade deals so that we can put terms together that support our economy and the American worker.

    As for Republicans who object to the healthcare overhaul proposed by Trump and House Speaker Paul Ryan, McDaniel said the party was “going through the proper transparent process” of passing the measure.

    It would be great if Democrats would be part of this conversation, and certainly the president has welcomed them and said we want you to be part of the fix. Please come help us because the people who are really hurting right now are people whose premiums are going up at a rapid clip and people whose deductibles are so high that in essence they don’t even have health insurance, and people in states who now have only one choice of a provider because all of the other insurers have pulled out. So this is a problem that Democrats and Republicans should be working on together.

    After Mitt Romney (McDaniel’s uncle) lost the 2012 presidential election to President Obama, an RNC report found that minorities “wrongly think that Republicans do not like them or want them in the country.” But Trump ran a racially tinged campaign and fared no better than Romney with blacks and about the same with Latinos.

    He has said he wants an open and inclusive party, and that’s something that I’m definitely going to focus on as chair. We want to continue to have outreach in communities that haven’t traditionally voted Republican and continue to take our message to those communities and talk about shrinking the size of government, and school choice, and unleashing one’s potential in this great nation.

    She suggested Trump’s hard line on illegal immigration and deportations would pose no obstacle in that effort.

    If we can find a way to enforce our laws and keep people from coming into our country illegally while maintaining a strong legal immigration system, I think that’s going to benefit everyone. If you come here illegally and you commit a crime, you’re not going to be able to stay in our country.

    McDaniel said Republicans would strengthen the party’s organization in Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania, the states that drove Trump’s electoral college victory. Voters there and elsewhere in the 2018 elections, she said, will see Trump as a president who champions the average working person.

    In the midterms, typically the party that has the White House loses seats, or loses the majority in the House or the Senate. I want to buck that trend. I want to keep our majorities. And that’s going to be a combination of putting together the best ground game, building on the momentum we have from this past election, working with the state parties, being in states early, having those conversations, and then talking about the accomplishments that we’ve seen from President Trump and his administration.

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