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RNC's 2022 election audit will scrutinize Trump’s role in the GOP’s losses

Henry Barbour, who will co-write the review, said it will look at what Trump has "gotten right" and "what has he gotten wrong."
Donald Trump at a campaign rally  in Vandalia, Ohio on Nov. 7, 2022.
Donald Trump at a campaign rally in Vandalia, Ohio, on Nov. 7. Sarah L. Voisin / The Washington Post via Getty Images

The Republican National Committee plans to closely examine what role former President Donald Trump played in the party's underwhelming 2022 midterm results as part of its audit of the GOP's performance.

"Looking at President Trump, what has he gotten right? And what has he gotten wrong? And how do we learn from that to win elections going forward?" Henry Barbour, an RNC committeeman from Mississippi who was tasked in November with co-writing the RNC’s post-election review, said in an interview Wednesday.

"And so I think we’re going to work our way through all of those various issues and dynamics to hopefully lay out our recommendations that will put the party in a much stronger position to win going forward," he added.

Barbour said his examination seeks to "get into the weeds" on everything from Trump to turnout to ticket-splitting. He hopes the analysis will provide answers to why the party lost a number of critical races during a cycle when it was expected to see big returns, while offering recommendations about the best path forward.

"What we intend to do is get into the weeds, to have data to confirm or certainly to give weight to the assessments that we make," he said. "This has got to be a candid effort. We can’t gloss over things. Or it’s just not worth doing."

RNC Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel announced the review in late November, selecting Barbour, the nephew of former Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour, and Harmeet Dhillon, a Trump attorney and RNC committeewoman from California. Barbour also co-authored the so-called autopsy that followed Republican Mitt Romney’s presidential defeat in 2012.

Dhillon has since announced a challenge to McDaniel for party chair, but Barbour said she is still on the team overseeing the post-election audit. Jane Brady, the Delaware GOP chairwoman, and Kim Borchers, an RNC committeewoman from Kansas, were recently added as co-chairs to the effort, into which more than three dozen additional RNC members will have input.

Barbour said that there is no fixed timeline to issue a report but that the group has "a real sense of urgency." The examination will be advanced at the RNC winter meetings at the end of the month, he added.

"We're just getting started; that's the reality of it," he said. But he noted that in initial conversations with candidates, consultants and campaign managers, he has heard consternation over candidate quality and a general miscalculation of how the Supreme Court's decision to overturn Roe v. Wade would land in key battlegrounds.

Trump himself has recently pointed blame for the party’s midterm shortcomings at anti-abortion activists and hardliners, as well as Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky.

"It wasn’t my fault that the Republicans didn’t live up to expectations in the MidTerms," Trump said on his Truth Social platform Sunday. "I was 233-20! It was the 'abortion issue,' poorly handled by many Republicans, especially those that firmly insisted on No Exceptions, even in the case of Rape, Incest, or Life of the Mother, that lost large numbers of Voters."

Trump’s endorsement record was bolstered by a large number of races in safe GOP districts where the Republican faced little threat. In key swing states President Joe Biden carried in 2020, Trump-backed candidates lost nearly every race for Senate, governor and secretary of state.

"Also, the people that pushed so hard, for decades, against abortion, got their wish from the U.S. Supreme Court, & just plain disappeared, not to be seen again. Plus, Mitch stupid $'s!" he added, referring to McConnell, a frequent target of Trump’s ire following the 2020 election.

Barbour said it's important for the RNC to take lessons from the post-2012 autopsy effort and apply them to the ongoing review. That audit, culminating with the 2013 reported dubbed the "Growth and Opportunity Project," called on Republicans to soften their stance on immigration and adopt a more inclusive posture broadly. The suggestions were largely cast aside during the subsequent presidential campaign.

McDaniel faces challenges and backlash to her leadership after the midterms, although a majority of RNC members have publicly come out in support of extending her tenure for another term.

In his own assessment, Barbour saw a clear line of demarcation between candidates who were focused on the future and those "stuck in the past" when it came time to win in November.

"We’ve got to figure out what’s our plan to make America a better place," he said. "And how do we win and how do we come together?"