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RNC unlikely to publicly release autopsy report examining 2022 losses

A Republican National Committee member the post-election analysis is "meant to be for internal use only."
Ronna McDaniel
RNC Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel promised an autopsy report of the GOP's disappointing performance in the 2022 midterm elections, but it is unlikely to be released to the public.Rick Bowmer / AP file

Republican Party officials plan to keep private an internal "autopsy" report assessing why many of their candidates fell short in the 2022 midterm elections, two people familiar with the party's thinking on the matter told NBC News on Friday.

In late November, Republican National Committee Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel announced that the party would conduct a post-election review of the GOP's disappointing performance in a cycle that should have favored Republicans.

A panel created by the Republican National Committee has completed a draft of the introduction of the report, but in a break from past practice, it's not likely to be widely available.

“I believe that the post-election analysis is meant to be for internal use only; taking the lessons we’ve learned so we can improve,” one RNC member said. “I don’t think it will be made publicly available.”

After the 2012 presidential election, the RNC commissioned a frank review of the party’s shortcomings at the ballot box and publicly released recommendations for the future. The resulting 100-page report, titled the "Growth & Opportunity Project,” provided an unsparing look at the party’s struggle to win over voters and communicate a winning message. 

Many of the suggestions were brushed aside by the party’s next standard-bearer, Donald Trump, who went on to defeat Democrat Hillary Clinton in 2016. After his defeat in 2020, Trump played an outsize role in the midterms elections two years later, vetting Republican candidates and endorsing those who championed his agenda.

Yet the draft introduction of the report doesn’t mention his name, nor that of any candidates, according to a person familiar with the matter.

The RNC has pledged to be neutral in the 2024 GOP presidential primaries. Given that Trump is running again, the source said, the draft purposely omitted his name so as to preserve the RNC’s neutrality and avoid the appearance that it is favoring one candidate or another.

But the omission rankled at least one RNC member. 

“It would be malpractice to write a report about the 2022 midterms and not mention Donald Trump,” said William Palatucci, a Republican National Committeeman from New Jersey.

“Whether it was Kari Lake or Blake Masters in Arizona, or Doug Mastriano in Pennsylvania, or Herschel Walker in Georgia, these are acolytes of Donald Trump," Palatucci said. "Those candidates and the former president bear the burden of explaining why we lost.”

A draft introduction of the report was reported on in recent days by The Washington Post, CNN and The Associated Press. Those outlets detailed a report that notes the need for Republicans to focus on the future rather than re-litigate the past — a nod to Trump’s unrelenting false claim that the 2020 election was stolen.

The Associated Press reported that the draft also said Republicans “underestimated the impact” of the Supreme Court’s overturning of Roe v. Wade months before the election.

NBC News has not seen a copy of the draft.

In January, Henry Barbour, who is co-chair of the review, said the RNC planned to closely examine Trump’s role in the electoral defeats last fall. He also said the panel would get “into the weeds” on everything from the former president’s role to ticket splitting.

“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?” Barbour said at the time. “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.”

Barbour declined to comment Friday.

Trump, the GOP’s current presidential frontrunner, has deflected blame for midterm defeats and instead said it was abortion that weakened Republicans in key swing state races.

At the RNC’s winter meetings in California earlier this year, Barbour and Tyler Bowyer, an RNC committeeman from Arizona, argued behind closed doors over whether “candidate quality” — a euphemism for Trump’s failed endorsements — explained the party’s underwhelming performance.

Bowyer argued the problem was not candidate quality but a lack of resources offered to high-profile, hardline nominees who lost.

Typically, the party that controls the White House  — the Democrats in this case — suffers substantial losses in the midterms. While the GOP narrowly wrested control of the House in 2022, President Joe Biden’s party defied expectations by retaining command of the Senate.