If Donald Trump faced any serious primary challengers, this would be an outrage, as Politico reports. A breakdown of norms! Signs of the apocalypse!
That’s a mighty big if, however:
Four states are poised to cancel their 2020 GOP presidential primaries and caucuses, a move that would cut off oxygen to Donald Trump’s long-shot primary challengers.
Republican parties in South Carolina, Nevada, Arizona and Kansas are expected to finalize the cancellations in meetings this weekend, according to three GOP officials who are familiar with the plans.
The moves are the latest illustration of Trump’s takeover of the entire Republican Party apparatus. They underscore the extent to which his allies are determined to snuff out any potential nuisance en route to his renomination — or even to deny Republican critics a platform to embarrass him.
Or is it? Politico’s Alex Isenstadt admits in the next paragraph that this is actually business as usual when no serious primary challenger emerges to a presidential incumbent:
Trump advisers are quick to point out that parties of an incumbent president seeking reelection have a long history of canceling primaries and note it will save state parties money. But the president’s primary opponents, who have struggled to gain traction, are crying foul, calling it part of a broader effort to rig the contest in Trump’s favor.
Rig what contest? So far, only two people have announced primary challenges to Donald Trump, neither of which appears in the least bit serious. Former Salem colleague Joe Walsh announced last week and immediately landed in hot water over his past social-media posts. Former Massachusetts governor Bill Weld announced months ago but has done little or nothing other than make a few media appearances. Neither have any serious constituency within the GOP as candidates, and that was true without Trump being on the scene.
If a Republican with more political heft launches a challenge, then this move would be a bigger deal — but it could probably be easily reversed, too. We’re now past Labor Day, though, so time is running out on any kind of a serious challenge. The only name on the horizon for such a move is Maryland governor Larry Hogan, who is no fan of Trump but hasn’t committed to running against him. Mark Sanford sounded serious for a hot second in July but has been very quiet ever since. Supposedly John Kasich is still mulling it over too, but he’s had years to make this decision.
If nothing else, this is a fish-or-cut-bait moment. Allee-allee-all-in-free! But if you want in, then get in. Start getting serious about raising money and organizing in these states. Otherwise, the state parties have no reason to spend money to benefit PR stunt “campaigns” conducted from MSNBC’s studios in New York City.
There are reasons to worry about Team Trump’s incorporation of the RNC, but this isn’t one of them. In fact, this could address what should be the biggest concern, which was that it would orient the RNC and state parties more toward Trump’s re-election and leave down-ticket candidates twisting in the wind. By canceling primaries and caucuses for presidential nominations, those state parties will save money and resources. Where those go in an Amalgamated Trump Inc GOP is still an open question, but state parties will control those resources, not the RNC/Team Trump combo. If we get to October 1 without a serious primary challenge, more states will probably follow suit — and probably should.