Inside Trump’s Takeover of the RNC: “In 2024, daddy’s home.”
“This is going to be Trump’s RNC with no daylight between the campaign and the party.”
Get Marc Caputo’s reporting on what’s happening and why inside MAGA.
THE REPUBLICAN PRESIDENTIAL PRIMARY is not technically over, but Donald Trump is the party’s likely nominee. And now his general election team is starting to take shape as it staffs up and turns toward a rematch with President Joe Biden. Here’s the order of battle:
Tony Fabrizio, longtime Trump pollster and adviser, could be brought to the campaign as a senior adviser in the coming weeks from the pro-Trump MAGA Inc. super PAC, according to a source briefed by the campaign.
Danielle Alvarez, former Republican National Committee communications director, plans to join the campaign’s communication team next week, at its headquarters in West Palm Beach, across the Intracoastal Waterway from Mar-a-Lago.
Chris LaCivita will remain one of the campaign’s co-chairs with Susie Wiles, but he’s slated to oversee the coming takeover of the RNC in Washington and will mind the campaign’s operations in D.C.
Brian Hughes, who was hired as a Florida adviser when the campaign saw Ron DeSantis as a threat, will round out the senior communication team with Steven Cheung, Jason Miller, Karoline Leavitt, and Alvarez.
James Blair, the political director for the campaign overseeing its field operations and ground game, has been taking on those duties at the RNC in recent weeks and is slated to become the RNC’s de facto political director.
None would comment for this story, which was assembled with information gathered by The Bulwark in interviews with RNC officials and associates of the campaign who had been briefed on aspects of the moves.
The decision to put the RNC in LaCivita’s portfolio underscores the campaign’s plan to completely take over the party apparatus so that it seamlessly functions as an arm of the Trump election effort.
The America First wing of the Republican party has crusaded against RNC chair Ronna McDaniel’s leadership, criticizing her for not being supportive enough of Trump, for poor fundraising, and for mediocre election results since she took over the organization in 2017. McDaniel signaled a willingness to step down after the South Carolina primary on February 24, according to the New York Times. Even though McDaniel hasn’t confirmed her plans to leave, her tenuous position has already triggered a race to replace her, led by RNC members Drew McKissick of South Carolina and Michael Whatley of North Carolina.
In Trump’s campaign, however, it doesn’t matter if McDaniel stays or goes—or who replaces her.
“This is going to be Trump’s RNC with no daylight between the campaign and the party. And LaCivita is the guy to do it,” said one insider.
Said another briefed on the takeover discussions: “At some point, I don’t think there’s any secret that there’s a lot of frustration with the RNC across all segments of the party, and that includes Trump. They don’t have any money. In 2016, it was a shotgun wedding. In 2020, we were technically the senior partner but you would never know that. In 2024, daddy’s home.”
On The Next Level podcast, JVL, Tim and A.B. discuss Ronna’s exit from the RNC.
Every presidential campaign needs to ramp up its general election efforts as soon as possible because of the sheer size and complexity of running for the highest office in the nation. In Trump’s case, there’s an added complication: the four criminal cases against him and the effort to have him stricken from the ballot under the Section 3 of Fourteenth Amendment. Trump has had to spend both time and millions of dollars defending himself in those suits (as well as two civil cases in New York).
Together, the civil and criminal cases have taken Trump off the campaign trail and put added pressure on the campaign, where Wiles oversees some of the legal coordination.
Despite the troubles, the temperamental Trump has told others he’s happy with his campaign team and doesn’t want to change a thing.
After all, the team helped him notch a historic win in Iowa and a 12-point victory in New Hampshire, making him the first non-incumbent of any party to win both early states. Further, Trump is on pace to secure a huge win Thursday in the Nevada GOP caucus two days after Nikki Haley lost the state-sanctioned primary by more than 30 points to “None of These Candidates.” Unlike Trump’s two previous campaigns, his 2024 effort has lacked the internal staff drama, damaging leaks, and snafus. When Trump was compared to Adolf Hitler for saying illegal immigrants are “poisoning the blood of our country” or for calling leftists “vermin,” for instance, there was notable lack of inside-the-campaign stories featuring anonymous advisers talking about the candidate’s rhetoric or trying to play cleanup.
“It’s the [former] president’s campaign and everyone knows they work for him, not against him. Credit Susie, Chris, Steven, and Jason for that,” said one Trump adviser who did not have authorization to speak on the record.
With the exception of LaCivita—who was recommended to Trump and Wiles by Fabrizio—the new hires and staff all have deep Florida roots and ties to Wiles, who lives near Jacksonville, where Hughes previously served as the city’s chief administrative officer and chief of staff to former Mayor Lenny Curry.
Wiles and Alvarez both worked together at the mammoth Mercury consulting firm and Alvarez left the RNC in 2023 to serve as director of public affairs at Florida Crystals, the sugar company owned by the influential Fanjul family, who are based in Palm Beach. Blair was a key player in DeSantis’s 2018 come-from-behind win credited to Wiles, who ran the campaign and worked closely with him. And Wiles and Fabrizio worked together on Trump’s previous presidential campaigns and they also masterminded Florida Sen. Rick Scott’s first successful 2010 gubernatorial campaign.
One consultant paid by the campaign, who did not have authorization to speak on the record, explained, “Susie and Chris made a no-jerks rule at the campaign and it’s clear they abide that at headquarters.”
Catch Marc Caputo on Thursday Night Bulwark at 8pm ET on February 8. He’ll join Joe and JVL to discuss a wild week for the GOP in Congress.
Update, February 8, 2024, 1:23pm: The piece originally stated that “Tony Fabrizio . . . is in talks to move over in the coming weeks from the pro-Trump MAGA Inc. super PAC to the campaign as a senior adviser to the campaign.” That passage has been changed to “Tony Fabrizio . . . could be brought to the campaign as a senior adviser in the coming weeks from the pro-Trump MAGA Inc. super PAC, according to a source briefed by the campaign.”