Trump endorses niece of former critic Mitt Romney as leader of Republican National Committee

Michigan Republican Party Chair Ronna Romney McDaniel speaks before President-elect Donald Trump at the DeltaPlex Arena on Dec 9, 2016, in Grand Rapids, Michigan.
Michigan Republican Party Chair Ronna Romney McDaniel speaks before President-elect Donald Trump at the DeltaPlex Arena on Dec 9, 2016, in Grand Rapids, Michigan. PHOTO: AFP

NEW YORK (REUTERS) - US President-elect Donald Trump on Wednesday (Dec 14) endorsed a niece of former critic Mitt Romney to be the next chair of the Republican National Committee (RNC) as he moved to put his stamp on the party leadership.

The RNC named Michigan Republican Party chair Ronna Romney McDaniel as its deputy chair, and Mr Trump said he looked forward to her taking over the party leadership.

Incoming White House chief of staff Reince Priebus will leave the RNC chairmanship when Mr Trump takes office on Jan 20.

"I'm excited to have a highly effective leader in Ronna McDaniel as RNC deputy chair and I look forward to her serving as the party's chairman in 2017," Mr Trump said in a statement.

"Ronna has been extremely loyal to our movement and her efforts were critical to our tremendous victory in Michigan, and I know she will bring the same passion to the Republican National Committee," he added.

The RNC's 168 elected members will convene in January to elect their next chairman and Mr Trump's endorsement of Ms McDaniel will likely carry enough weight to get her elected.

Ms McDaniel's profile rose in Mr Trump's view when she helped him win Michigan in the Nov 8 election. The state had not voted Republican in a presidential election since 1988 and was critical to Mr Trump's victory over Democrat Hillary Clinton.

Her selection came two days after Mr Trump passed over Mr Mitt Romney to be his secretary of state, instead choosing Exxon Mobil Corp Chief Executive Rex Tillerson.

Mr Trump and Mr Romney have gotten past their frictions during the Republican presidential nominating battle when the 2012 Republican nominee was critical of Mr Trump's candidacy.

Mr Bob Paduchik, a veteran Republican operative in Ohio who was Mr Trump's campaign manager in that state, was named deputy co-chair of the RNC. Mr Trump's victory in Ohio was also crucial to his victory.