Republicans may cancel 2020 presidential primaries to back Trump
WASHINGTON — Republican officials in multiple states are considering canceling their 2020 primary contests, a move that would be a show of support for President Donald Trump as a few GOP challengers have stepped forward to contest the party’s presidential nomination.
Trump is officially facing GOP primary challenges from former Massachusetts Gov. Bill Weld, who announced his White House bid in April, as well as from former Rep. Joe Walsh, who announced his candidacy in August.
The state Republican parties in South Carolina, Kansas, Nevada and Arizona could nix their primaries and caucuses.
State political parties set their own rules for primaries and caucuses, and one consideration when an incumbent president is seeking re-election is the costs that the state parties must bear to put on an intra-party contest when the likely outcome appears relatively clear.
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Leaders in South Carolina and Nevada will meet Saturday to reach a decision, while the Arizona GOP Executive Committee will discuss the issue at a Sept. 14 meeting.
Kansas Republicans are also considering the option, according to Politico.
It is not an unusual move for state parties to forego primary contests when a strong incumbent is running for re-election as president.
For example, the South Carolina and Arizona Republican parties did not hold primaries in 1984 and 2004 when Ronald Regan and George W. Bush, respectively, were seeking re-election, according to the Associated Press.
In 2012, Democrats canceled 10 presidential preference contests, according to the New York Times.
“These are decisions made entirely by state parties and there are volumes of historical precedents to support them. Nevertheless, President Trump will dominate and prevail in whatever contest is placed before him,” Trump campaign communication director Tim Murtaugh said in a statement provided to USA TODAY of the possibility that the intra-GOP contests in the four states could be canceled.
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Drew McKissick, chairman of the South Carolina Republican Party, also told the Times: “There is strong precedent on the part of both parties to not hold a primary when they control the White House.”
In Arizona, the effort has been afoot since at least April, when state party chair Kelli Ward began circulating a GOP executive committee resolution to GOP state lawmakers to support opting out of the state’s presidential preference election.
That resolution, obtained in May by The Arizona Republic, acknowledges that the party has the option of not holding a presidential preference election.
“Arizona Republicans are fired up to re-elect President Trump to a second term and will continue to work together to keep America — and Arizona — great,” Ward said in a statement issued Friday.
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The ABC News affiliate in Wichita, Kansas, reported that the Kansas Republican Party will not organize a caucus for the 2020 primary season, and that the decision follows a standard that goes back to President Abraham Lincoln’s re-election.
“Every time an elected incumbent Republican has run for re-election, except in 1912, the Kansas GOP state convention adopted a resolution instructing all delegates to vote for the elected incumbent,” the TV station reported, adding that “The Kansas GOP estimates organizing a caucus would cost the party $250,000.”
In Nevada, a spokesman on Friday confirmed the party’s central committee plans to vote this weekend on a rule change that would short-circuit a pair of long-shot campaigns for the Silver State’s Republican caucus delegates.
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The RNC has already thrown its support behind Trump, signing a pledge in January to give “undivided support” before he’s the party’s official nominee.
“The members just wanted to underscore, underline, highlight that we are here to reelect President Trump and Republicans up and down the ballot,” the RNC’s national press secretary, Cassie Smedile, said at the time.
In response to reports about the state parties’ plans, GOPUnrigged.com, a project of Defending Democracy Together, is pushing to keep the primaries.
Sarah Longwell, executive director of Defending Democracy Together, in a statement, suggested the four GOP state parties are trying to protect Trump by considering cancellation of their primaries and caucuses,
“Depriving Republicans of a chance to participate in choosing their party’s nominee is shameful, weak, and cowardly,” she also said. “Let the people vote. Give them their options. Let the best candidate win.”