mark sanford

States Cancel Republican Primaries

Former Governor of South Carolina Mark Sanford. Photo: Gage Skidmore

Former Illinois Representative Joe Walsh. Photo: Wikimedia

Former Governor of Massachusetts William (Bill) Weld. Photo: Wikimedia

“If we believe our party represents the best hope for the United States’ future, let us take our message to the public and prove we are right,” wrote Republican presidential challengers Mark Sanford, Joe Walsh and Bill Weld in a Sept. 13 op-ed in The Washington Post. While the race for president has been mainly focused on the Democratic candidates, behind the scenes, the GOP and Republican voters’ path to choosing a nominee has hit a roadblock.

Recently, five states canceled their Republican primaries to show their support for President Donald Trump. This has been done in the past, most recently during Obama’s presidency. However, after this action was taken by Kansas, Nevada and South Carolina on Sept. 7 and by Alaska on Sept. 21, the candidates that are officially challenging President Trump for the Republican nomination have spoken out against this decision. They claim that this decision is undemocratic and undermines the electoral process.

Republican challengers Weld, Walsh and Sanford worked together to publish the op-ed entitled “We are Trump’s Republican challengers. Canceling GOP primaries is a critical mistake.” The candidates used fiery language and attacks on President Trump’s power and confidence about obtaining the Republican nomination such as “cowards run from fights,” and “only the weak fear competition.” 

The candidates also claim that this strategy, while undermining the democratic institutions that make up this country, makes the United States’ elections closely resemble those of Russia and China instead of “our American tradition.”

They also argue that these cancellations will allow Democrats to dominate the political conversation during the early stages of the 2020 election. “Millions of voters looking for a conservative alternative to the status quo deserve a chance to hear alternate ideas aired on the national stage.” 

While polls show that these candidates are very unlikely to win primaries or clench the nomination, Weld, Walsh and Sanford argue that these poll numbers should not decide whether or not voters are given the opportunity to “choose their leaders, much less their presidents.”

The Trump administration, along with the GOP, has argued that the historical precedent makes it perfectly acceptable to do away with primaries in states that show strong support for President Trump. “These are decisions made entirely by state parties, and there are volumes of historical precedents to support them,” said Tim Murtaugh, a spokesperson for the Trump campaign.

A major instance that was cited was how state primaries were handled during President George W. Bush’s 2004 re-election campaign. During that election cycle, 10 states did away with their various forms of primaries in support of Bush’s presidency. 

In a presidential race that has yet to focus on the Republican challengers, will candidates like Weld, Walsh and Sanford be able to create some traction against the incumbent President Trump? Without the aid of mainly Republican states and the GOP, it seems unlikely that any Republican candidate stands a chance at winning the nomination.

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