On Thursday night, while Joe Biden delivered his State of the Union address, the Republican National Committee’s hundred and sixty-eight members were mingling at an enormous Hilton in downtown Houston. They’d flown to Texas to elect the new chair and co-chair of the committee the next morning. The candidates ran uncontested and were selected by Donald Trump: Michael Whatley, the head of the North Carolina G.O.P., and Lara Trump, the former President’s daughter-in-law. The vote was mostly a formality so that, in the words of a senior Trump adviser, they could at last “firm up the merger” between the Trump campaign and the R.N.C.

In the Hilton, I watched Biden’s speech in the hotel bar with a handful of committee members; there was no sound, only captions on the television, so the President’s remarks were set to Top Forty rock. “Regular Joe, here he goes,” one member said. “Has there ever been a more divisive President in our history? Shame, shame,” he added, before departing to do a radio interview “three drinks in.” The evening in Houston was a split screen between two very different futures in November: Biden wants to stave off autocracy in the form of Donald Trump, while the new R.N.C., as Lara put it, would now work to insure that, “no matter how much crazy stuff the Democrats try to pull this election cycle, we will be victorious on Election Day.”

Steve Bannon was one of several to describe the transition—for better or for worse—as the MAGA takeover of the R.N.C. The committee’s job in an election year is, of course, to try to elect the Republican nominee. When the R.N.C. had its winter meeting in Las Vegas last month, at the Horseshoe Casino, it acknowledged that the coupling of Trump and the Party was imminent. Ronna McDaniel, the outgoing chair, had signalled that she’d step aside after the South Carolina primaries, once Trump was the presumptive nominee. McDaniel is Mitt Romney’s niece—formerly Romney McDaniel—and she supposedly dropped the Romney because Trump didn’t like the association with Mitt; still, her loyalty was never quite enough or quite right. (The Party also hadn’t seen much electoral success with McDaniel at the helm; in addition to poor midterm performances, the G.O.P. lost both chambers of Congress and the Presidency, and had its lowest fund-raising year in a decade last year.)

In Houston, Lara walked past the bar in a light-blue dress, pausing to examine the Bibb lettuce growing in a terrarium for the hotel restaurant, on her way to a cocktail party that she was hosting. I ran into a senior Trump-campaign official in the lobby outside the bar. “We’re pretty close to where we want the lanes to look. We just need to tell the R.N.C. people how they fit in those lanes,” he said. The committee “has its fair share of bureaucratic tendencies. Those are gonna be wrung out.” This work will be done by the co-campaign manager, Chris LaCivita, who’s being installed as the R.N.C.’s chief operating officer.

On Friday morning at the Hilton, as a gathering of the Influential Women in Energy was kicking off, the many hotel screens announcing the day’s events didn’t mark the R.N.C. business. Friday’s vote had been tacked on to the Spring Training meeting, where members attended sessions on the likes of digital fund-raising. “It’s a delight,” Patti Lyman, a Virginia committee member who was wearing sequinned Trump and elephant pins, told me, of the new leadership. “My job is to get the trust back in the national Party from our grassroots people.” As I waited for my press lanyard, a Trump official confirmed with the staff that the speeches would be broadcast live on TV. “They want to watch back home,” he said, referring to Mar-a-Lago.

“There have always been strong ties between the presumptive nominee and the R.N.C.,” Oscar Brock, a committee member from Tennessee, told me as we stood by the breakfast buffet. What’s notable here is the extent to which not only Trump’s campaign but now the committee also will focus on what they refer to as “election integrity” ahead of November. In his endorsement of Whatley, Trump praised Whatley’s passion for election integrity. Whatley, a member of George W. Bush’s recount legal team in 2000, promised that he would significantly increase the number of poll watchers to monitor the voting process this year. Under Whatley’s watch, Trump said, 2024 “can’t be stolen.” (At CPAC, in 2021, Whatley had said, of the 2000 election, “We knew, if we were not there, they were going to steal it.”) On Friday, he told the gathered members, “Over the next eight months, the R.N.C. will work hand in glove with President Trump’s campaign.”

Outside the ballroom doors, Eric Trump and LaCivita, the co-campaign manager, huddled in the frigid air-conditioning. “There’s going to be a new R.N.C.,” LaCivita told me. “You don’t want to call it a reorganization. I like to call it a reorientation—much more focussed on winning a general election. . . . It’s going to be much more aggressive and much more focussed on what’s actually happening in battleground states.” He went on, “You have two different types of people in politics. You have what I call ‘party-crats,’ then you have campaign people. . . . It’s about bringing the campaign side of things into the party system.”

The general session opened with a prayer after the Pledge of Allegiance. “Heavenly Father, I pray for Ronna. Heavenly Father, I pray that Michael [Whatley] will be true and just.” McDaniel and Drew McKissick, her co-chair, relinquished their roles. “I’m stepping aside today . . . because President Trump deserves to have the team he wants in place,” she said. McKissick, her co-chair, said, “Nothing is permanent in politics. . . . Losers don’t make policy.” Sometimes “you gotta bring in new folks to get the job done.” When Beth Bloch, a committeewoman from West Virginia, nominated Lara, she told people not to judge by titles or experience. Lara, Eric Trump’s wife, who has served as a television surrogate for several years, recently came out with a children’s book called “The Never-Give-Up Pup” and held a puppy auction at Mar-a-Lago. “God does not call the qualified. He qualifies the called,” Bloch said.

In the meeting, there were no dissenting votes against Lara or Whatley. In his acceptance speech, Whatley spoke mostly of “protecting the ballot” and the “sanctity of their vote,” outlining plans for securing elections in battleground states: “recruiting and training tens of thousands of volunteers to serve as poll judges, workers, and observers who will act as real-time monitors.” Lara took the stage in a purple skirt and white shirt, and told the group that she was going to speak from the heart instead of from her speech. “The goal on November 5th is to win, and, as my father-in-law says, ‘bigly,’ ” she said. “We have to have election integrity like we’ve never seen it before. . . . We need to make sure that nothing is left to question on November 5th.” She held up a recently donated check for a hundred thousand dollars, and the room applauded.

One question hovering over the meeting was whether the R.N.C. would pay Trump’s legal bills. Using the already cash-strapped organization to help with his half billion dollars in legal judgments would create a barrier that’s too porous for some. (The R.N.C. is supposed to spend on down-ballot G.O.P. races, not pay legal bills. “We can walk and chew gum at the same time,” Brock told me.) The committeeman Henry Barbour, from Mississippi, had drafted a resolution to prevent the R.N.C. from covering the legal bills, but he didn’t get enough co-sponsors to bring the resolution to a vote. (Barbour said he knew it wouldn’t pass, but he thought the gesture was still important.) Several committee members told me that their constituents were keen to help with Trump’s legal fees.“It’s a legitimate expense because the only reason he’s being sued or indicted is for political reasons. I think ultimately every single one’s gonna be overturned. It might take him years and millions of dollars to do it, but I think that was all political retribution,” the committee member Roger Villere, Jr., told me as we waited to enter the ballroom. “These litigation expenses are campaign expenses. It is as legitimate an expense as a TV ad or travel or anything else. If we take a different position, we’ve surrendered to the Democrats,” Lyman, from Virginia, told me. Though Lara has said that she’s committed to using “every single penny” of R.N.C. money to make sure that her father-in-law wins, LaCivita has repeatedly insisted he won’t let it happen.

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