How the GOP Can Change Direction? Paul E. Peterson, a senior fellow at Stanford’s Hoover Institute, has an opinion piece out with CNN arguing that “to keep extremism at bay, Republicans need to use proportional representation as a method for selecting delegates to their 2024 presidential convention.”
Under such a scheme, the share of convention delegates a candidate receives from a state would correspond exactly with the proportion of the votes that candidate receives. So, if a candidate receives 50% of the vote, that candidate receives 50% of the delegates. Simple. Peterson thinks that proportional representation would help slow, or stop, a “slow-moving train wreck.”
Horserace Elections in GOP
Proportional representation is not the scheme currently in use. Instead, delegates are awarded through horserace elections wherein the candidate who receives the highest share of delegate votes receives all of that state’s delegates. So if one candidate receives 30% of the votes, but is the top vote-getter, that candidate earns all of the state’s delegates. This is also simple, but in Peterson’s view, it is problematic.
“Horserace rules helped former President Donald Trump win the 2016 Republican nomination,” Peterson wrote,” and horserace rules could make Trump the 2024 Republican frontrunner.” Peterson is right about that. Trump never won the majority of primary votes in 2016. Rather, in a tightly contested Republican field that featured over a dozen candidates, Trump earned only 45% of the vote, a plurality. But under horserace rules, Trump was able to leverage that vote share into 70% of the delegates from the GOP convention – enough to earn the GOP nomination.
Trump’s Dedicated Following Could Be Key
Trump’s popularity is fading, but he retains a loyal constituency. And if the Republican field is as crowded as it is expected to be, opposition to Trump may fail to congeal around any single alternative candidate. The opposition might instead splinter, diluting vote share among several alternative candidates, such as Ron DeSantis, Mike Pence, and Tim Scott. If states are running horserace elections, a splintered opposition could leave Trump in an excellent position to scoop up all of a state’s delegates – even if he fails to earn a majority of that state’s votes.
So, the rules by which delegates are awarded could deeply affect Trump’s viability. Ben Ginsburg, a former Republican Party attorney, said “there ought to be a lot of attention paid to” how the RNC sets its delegate-awarding rules for 2024.
Although the states set their own primary election rules, the Republican National Committee could pressure states to conform to a preferred scheme. How? The RNC sets the number of delegates from each state. If it wants to twist a state’s arm into compliance, it can reduce the number of delegates a state has until that state complies with the RNC’s wishes.
Proportional Representation in 2024?
Peterson is not optimistic that many states will use proportional representation schemes for the 2024 primary. “Given that [horserace elections] favor a Trump candidacy, and given Trump’s continuing influence over the RNC,” Peterson said, “there is not much chance of a change in national party rules.” Accordingly, “the states will have a good deal of flexibility” meaning, the states can do what they want – and many of them will opt to hold horserace elections.
Harrison Kass is the Senior Editor at 19FortyFive. An attorney, pilot, guitarist, and minor pro hockey player, Harrison joined the US Air Force as a Pilot Trainee but was medically discharged. Harrison holds a BA from Lake Forest College, a JD from the University of Oregon, and an MA from New York University. Harrison lives in Oregon and listens to Dokken.