Although there are four Republicans vying for the nomination, many states have already canceled their primary election and party nominating conventions, signaling support for President Donald Trump.
While Trump is the obvious front-runner, the decision to skip the primary process has outraged the other Republicans in the race. Here are five things to know about the controversial decisions:
Which states have canceled their primaries and nominating conventions?
So far, four states — Kansas, Nevada, South Carolina, and Arizona — have canceled their Republican nominating conventions, effectively tossing their support behind President Trump’s reelection bid.
While it isn’t surprising that Trump got support from these states, the process has been highly criticized. Although Trump is the president, three other Republicans have tossed their name in the ring as well: former Rep. Joe Walsh (R-Ill.) and former Governors Bill Weld (R-Mass.) and Mark Sanford (R-S.C.).
This decision has been controversial, but the states that have made the move believe it is important to throw their support behind President Trump as soon as possible.
Who gets to make that decision?
Every state is different, but the four states that have pulled the plug on their primaries all decided at the party level. This means that the state parties of Kansas, Nevada, South Carolina, and Arizona all decided to toss support behind Trump without entertaining any challengers.
For these states, Republican Party officials made the decision to cancel the primaries at the executive level. This means that party board members that were elected at state party conventions have decided for the whole state to cancel the nominating process and convention that would typically take place.
According to several reports, the Trump campaign has been working closely with pro-Trump state party boards to ensure that primary races don’t take root.
This shouldn’t be surprising at the state level, given that the Republican National Committee (RNC) announced in February, shortly after Weld first entered the race, that they were endorsing Trump without even considering alternative candidates.
While state parties typically get to decide the primary process, that doesn’t mean state leadership won’t put their thumb on the scale. For example, Governor Chris Sununu (R-N.H.) announced that New Hampshire, which holds the first primary of the campaign season, will not be skipping the primary, even though he strongly supports President Trump’s reelection.
Is it legal?
While Walsh hinted in his interview with IJR that there are legal groups looking into the decisions, this is not the first time that a party has canceled its primary. Democrats in Arizona canceled their primaries in 1996 and 2012 when former Presidents Bill Clinton and Barack Obama were running for reelection.
Neither of those canceled primaries in Arizona were blocked by the courts, but each state is different. For now, it is unclear if Kansas, Nevada, and South Carolina have any legislation that could block the decisions, but Republican candidates like Walsh have been looking at their legal options.
“I know there are organizations out there looking at legal options and any other options,” Walsh told IJR. “We intend to be on the ballot in all 50 states.”
What do supporters of the decision say?
Supporters of the canceled primaries argue that it is a waste of time and money to hold nominating conventions and primaries in their state when there is a slim chance that any other candidate would get a vote.
“With no legitimate primary challenger and President Trump’s record of results, the decision was made to save South Carolina taxpayers over $1.2 million and forgo an unnecessary primary,” South Carolina Republican Party Chairman Drew McKissick told USA Today.
Other party chairs offered similar messages.
“As the chairman of the Nevada Republican Party, my job is to ensure not only President Trump’s victory in Nevada but also to elect more Republicans down the ballot. It would be malpractice on my part to waste money on a caucus to come to the inevitable conclusion that President Trump will be getting all our delegates in Charlotte,” said Nevada GOP Chairman Michael J. McDonald.
How do other Republican candidates feel about states canceling primaries?
Although party chairs see canceling the primary as a no-brainer, other Republicans have gone as far as calling it an authoritarian power grab.
“This isn’t Russia and this isn’t China,” Walsh told IJR, adding, “They’ve canceled elections. They disenfranchised voters.”
Sanford gave a similar analysis, telling IJR:
“It’s anti-American. I mean, you think about it, you know. In some countries they have coronations. In some countries, they have a military coup. Some have fixed elections. The American way is winning an election and I think taking that away so you might preserve the president’s political options and help him going forward, I think, may help him but it hurts the voters. And I think it’s a big mistake.”
The candidates aren’t the only ones making this case for states to keep their primaries and caucuses on the calendar. Aaron Britt, an Iowa Republican Party spokesperson, told CNN that it “was never really a question” if they would have the annual caucus, noting that Iowa voters find it important to hold the caucus to highlight the strength of their candidates.
“Folks understand that this would be an opportunity for President Trump to show how strong he is in this state,” said Britt.
For now, it isn’t clear if any other states will follow the four that have already pulled the plug on their primaries.