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Trump praises Michigan GOP while weighing RNC chairman call

LANSING, Michigan (AP) — Donald Trump is nearing a decision on who will lead the Republican National Committee and could tap Michigan Republican Party chairwoman Ronna Romney McDaniel for a leadership post Friday during his visit to Grand Rapids.

The niece of 2012 GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney was an early Trump supporter and helped him notch a surprise win in a state that previously had championed Democrats in six consecutive presidential elections. McDaniel is scheduled to speak at Trump's rally.

Yet whether McDaniel gets the party chairmanship appeared unsettled Friday, according to several people close to Trump.

While Trump's incoming White House chief of staff Reince Priebus is pushing McDaniel, other Trump confidantes such as Kellyanne Conway and Steve Bannon favor Nick Ayers, a senior aide to Vice President-elect Mike Pence.

Priebus, who currently leads the RNC, has been publicly silent about who he wants as his successor. But he backs McDaniel because he believes she will maintain the investments he has made in party data and infrastructure, according to three people who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss private deliberations.

The RNC showdown echoes power struggles between Priebus on one side and Bannon and Conway on the other for influence over Trump. That dynamic is also playing out with a lack of consensus over the president-elect's choice for secretary of State. Trump has said he is considering Mitt Romney, another Priebus favorite, for that Cabinet position.

As the incoming president, Trump's choice for RNC chairman and other party leadership positions carries immense sway with the party's 168 members, who will vote on the team early next year.

Whoever takes the chairmanship will face immediate pressure to hold onto control of Congress in 2018.

Trump singled McDaniel out for praise during a packed New York City fundraiser Wednesday. Supporters and donors gathered for a private thank-you session, whose attendees included McDaniel, Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette and about 1,000 others.

"The president-elect gave a big shout-out to Ronna" and said she had a "big opportunity," Schuette said.

After executing Michigan's GOP election plan to victory, she next converted the state GOP into Trump's recount legal team. She retained top lawyers who persuaded the state appeals court this week to deny Green Party candidate Jill Stein's call for a recount.

McDaniel did not respond to requests for comment Thursday but told The Associated Press last month she'd be "interested in whatever Mr. Trump wants."

Some close to Trump are recommending Ayers. Ayers was the Republican Governors Association executive director in 2010, a successful year for Republican state executives, and was a key adviser to Pence's 2012 governor's race. He joined Trump last summer, mainly helping Pence. He now advises Pence, who is chairman of the transition.

"Trump allies are encouraging Nick to run," Trump spokesman Jason Miller told the AP this week.

Ayers counts heavyweights former Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour, a former RNC chairman, former Texas Gov. Rick Perry and incoming Missouri Gov.-elect Eric Greitens among his backers.

"The fact is Nick wins," said Greitens, whom Ayers advised during his 2016 campaign. "I am 100 percent behind Nick Ayers."

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Beaumont reported from Des Moines, Iowa.

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Associated Press writers Julie Pace and Julie Bykowicz contributed to this report from Washington.

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Follow Beaumont and Eggert on Twitter at: https://twitter.com/TomBeaumont and https://twitter.com/DavidEggert00

| Dec. 9, 2016 10:49 AM EST

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