Politico on Friday morning reported that South Carolina, Nevada, Arizona, and Kansas are set to cancel their GOP presidential primaries this weekend in what the site calls “the latest illustration of Trump’s takeover of the entire Republican Party apparatus.”
This means, fundamentally, that anyone challenging Trump from within the Republican party will be denied the chance to win in these four states, delegates from which will all go to Trump. And while this isn’t unprecedented—both Democratic and Republican state parties have previously canceled primaries when a candidate from their party is the incumbent, to save both time and money—it does seem to be the end result of machinations by Trump’s people, who are terrified of what might happen at the convention in Charlotte. From January:
The campaign is so focused on ensuring the convention is a smooth-running affair devoid of presidential critics that it’s building out an entire wing of the campaign devoted solely to the endeavor. The initiative appears to be unique in both how early it’s been launched and how far-reaching it is…
The enterprise is part of a broader takeover of the party machinery heading into 2020. Among the Trump team’s other steps is incorporating the reelection campaign and the Republican National Committee into a single, streamlined entity — an unprecedented arrangement.
Trump’s aides claimed that the state party chairs decided to cancel the primaries on their own, and provided statements to that effect, and the RNC has denied any involvement. Joe Walsh, one of Trump’s potential primary opponents, isn’t buying it:
“Trump and his allies and the Republican National Committee are doing whatever they can do to eliminate primaries in certain states and make it very difficult for primary challengers to get on the ballot in a number of states,” said former Rep. Joe Walsh (R-Ill.), who recently launched his primary campaign against the president. “It’s wrong, the RNC should be ashamed of itself, and I think it does show that Trump is afraid of a serious primary challenge because he knows his support is very soft.”
Trump’s support is not soft among Republicans, who still approve of him in overwhelming numbers, but Walsh is technically right that if anyone had a chance to primary this sitting president, that chance just took a hit.