WASHINGTON - The Republican National Committee is hoping for a low-key meeting this week in California, but divisions among Donald Trump followers over party leadership could fuel a potential divide within the GOP.
RNC chairwoman Ronna McDaniel, seeking her fourth term, is being challenged by two ultra-conservative Donald Trump supporters, attorney Harmeet Dhillon and MyPillow founder and salesman Mike Lindell.
McDaniel is the favorite, but her opponents could add to rancor within a party divided over the disappointing 2022 congressional elections and facing a brutal 2024 presidential contest involving Trump and other Republicans who believe the party should move past the ex-president.
The Republican National Committee will conduct elections for chair and other top offices on Friday, capping the three-day set of meetings at a beach resort in Dana Point, Calif.
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Who is Ronna McDaniel?
In the run-up to the winter meeting, McDaniel is predicting victory by saying she has the support of more than 100 members of the 168-member RNC, telling Politico that "we just can't afford to take our foot off the gas."
Picked for the job by Trump after the 2016 election, McDaniel said the party has improved its get-out-the-vote programs, coalition building and communications during her watch.
Trump has yet to endorse McDaniel for a fourth term. The former president, who is making 2024 campaign appearances this weekend in New Hampshire and South Carolina, has also said nice things about Dhillon, saying she has done legal work for him.
Who is Harmeet Dhillon?
Harmeet Dhillon, the managing partner of Dhillon Law Group, has appeared on Fox News previously in support of Trump.
In an email to RNC members, Dhillon asked if Republican candidates are "comfortable with the status quo and the RNC's track record in recent years in helping our candidates win?"
McDaniel and Dhillon have also sought support from Republicans who are skeptical of Trump.
Who is Mike Lindell?
Lindell, an outspoken 2020 election denier who promotes false claims of voter fraud, is an underdog in the chair's race. He also says that, with three candidates, the race could go to multiple ballots.
"There's gonna be multiple votes, and there's a three-way race, and we all stay in until somebody gets to 85," Lindell told Insider website.
The number 85 is a majority of the 168-member RNC.
What are the issues facing the GOP?
Feuding Republicans are coming off a disappointing set of elections last year, including failure to win back the U.S. Senate from Democrats.
The GOP did win control of the U.S. House, but only by nine seats. (The small margin enabled a group of 20 or so conservatives to delay Kevin McCarthy's election as speaker of the House, the most public example of party divisions).
After the poor election showing, some Republicans blamed Trump, while others blamed individual candidates. Still others pointed fingers at the Republican National Committee under McDaniel's leadership.
The RNC meeting in California is also designed to set party rules, pass resolutions, and generally prepare for primaries and general elections in 2024.
This year's agenda is not expected to be contentious - unlike last year.
During their 2022 winter meeting Salt Lake City, a divided party voted to censure two House Republicans - Liz Cheney and Adam Kinzinger - for participating in a congressional investigation in the pro-Trump insurrection of Jan. 6, 2021.
The Republicans also plan to maintain a traditional primary schedule in 2024. While Democrats are in the process of changing their calendar, Republicans plan to continue starting with the Iowa caucuses.
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This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Under shadow of Trump, Republican Party meets to pick a leader