In early 2021, when former President Donald J. Trump was unhappily exiting the White House, he suggested in a private conversation with Ronna McDaniel, the head of the Republican National Committee, the possibility of running for the White House again in 2024, not as a Republican but as a third-party candidate.

Mr. Trump quickly scrapped the idea. Three years later, the rest is nearly history. After his victories in Iowa and New Hampshire last month, Mr. Trump is on the precipice of again becoming the Republican Party’s official standard-bearer.

Despite a sometimes fraught history — most party insiders were leery of Mr. Trump when he first won the Republican nomination in 2016 — the former president and his party are now largely aligned, a sign of how much Republicanism has transformed in the last eight years.

As members of the Republican National Committee gathered in Las Vegas this week for their winter meeting, the looming remarriage of the party apparatus with Mr. Trump generated only the smallest pockets of resistance. Instead, much of the drama and discussion on the sidelines was about how Mr. Trump would seek to put his imprint on the party’s leadership.

Would it be a wholesale takeover? What would be Ms. McDaniel’s fate? And what would it all mean for the party’s strained finances?

One of the central questions on the sidelines of the Las Vegas gathering was if Ms. McDaniel, still the party chairwoman, would stay through the election, when her term ends. Mr. Trump first appointed Ms. McDaniel in 2016 and has long worked closely and directly with her. In private, however, the former president has begun to question the R.N.C.’s direction under her leadership, according to a person who has heard his remarks. For her part, Ms. McDaniel has indicated she would step aside if the Republican nominee prefers.


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