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GOP plans to drop presidential primaries in 4 states to impede Trump challengers

The Boston Globe logo The Boston Globe 9/6/2019 Annie Karni
a man wearing glasses: William Weld, a former governor of Massachusetts, is challenging President Trump for the GOP presidential nomination. © Charles Krupa/Associated Press William Weld, a former governor of Massachusetts, is challenging President Trump for the GOP presidential nomination.

WASHINGTON — The Republican parties in Arizona, Kansas, Nevada, and South Carolina intend to cancel the 2020 presidential primaries in their states, according to three people familiar with their plans, a move aimed at depriving President Trump’s long-shot challengers of chances to build support.

The state parties have yet to formalize their decisions, but Trump’s challengers denounced the move. Joe Walsh, a former Tea Party congressman from Illinois who announced his candidacy last month, said he planned to fight the move both legally and by appealing directly to voters in those four states.

“It’s something a mob boss would do,” Walsh said.

William Weld, a former governor of Massachusetts who is also challenging Trump for the party’s nomination, said he found the move concerning but not surprising.

“Mr. Trump has not been bashful about his desire to avoid primaries or even elections,” Weld said.

Other states could follow suit before the Oct. 1 deadline for state parties to file delegate selection plans with the Republican National Committee, campaign officials said. States that do not hold primaries still choose delegates, often by holding a state convention.

The Trump campaign said there was nothing unusual about a move that was designed to help state parties save money on costly primary elections.

Blocking presidential primaries in some states is not unusual when an incumbent is running for reelection, officials said.

The Trump campaign pointed out that in 1992, when president George H.W. Bush was seeking reelection, Republicans canceled primaries in eight states; in 1996, when president Bill Clinton was running for a second term, Democrats canceled primaries in eight states, and in 2004, when president George W. Bush was up for reelection, Republicans canceled primaries in 10 states.

But with the potential for further Republicans to enter the race — Mark Sanford, the former governor and congressman from South Carolina, has been toying with a run — political strategists said there is also a case for the White House to confront the challengers head-on.

“Our policy in the past has always been, you’re an incumbent president, you have certain advantages, and you’ll probably be nominated again, but go out and win it,” said Ed Rollins, national campaign director for Ronald Reagan’s 1984 reelection effort.

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