How Trump is bending the primary rules: The former president enjoys a huge lead in the Republican primary contest. But according to a new report, he’s also working to bend the rules to his advantage.
Donald Trump Is a GOP Rule Bender
Former President Donald Trump, despite his many indictments, still enjoys a commanding lead in the Republican presidential nominating contest. The most recent Morning Consult Tracking Poll has him with 59 percent support among the GOP, way ahead of the rest of the field, with the Iowa caucuses about three months away.
Trump has skipped the Republican primary debates so far. And according to a New York Times report, Trump’s team has been “working quietly to twist the delegate rules in their favor.”
According to the report, Trump has cultivated Republican state party chairmen in various states, with phone calls and even a meeting at Mar-a-Lago which “ended in ice cream sundaes.”
After that, several of the state officials have agreed to change primary and caucus rules in a way that helps Trump and hurts his opponents.
The state party chairman in Nevada, in fact, has “tilted the rules so significantly that some of Mr. Trump’s opponents have accused the party of manipulating the election for him — and have mostly pulled up stakes in the state entirely.”
That state passed rules restricting how much Super PACs can participate in caucuses. This was seen as a way to hurt DeSantis, whose campaign is heavily dependent on its Super PAC, Never Back Down. Both the Super PAC’s chairman and largest donor live in Nevada.
As noted on X by journalist Marcy Wheeler, the Nevada state chairman, Michael McDonald, served as a fake elector for Trump in 2020, testified before the grand jury in the Trump election interference case, and could end up testifying in Trump’s trial next year.
“McDonald — who may testify against Donald Trump between March 4 and June 11 — is among the fake electors at MOST exposure of going to jail,” Wheeler wrote. “The one way out is to do everything he can to ensure Trump will be in a position to pardon him.”
In California, meanwhile, will “award all 169 of its delegates to any candidate who tops 50 percent of the vote statewide,” which has essentially convinced the other candidates to give up on California. Involved in that process, the Times reported, was recently deposed House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, who was trying to remain in the former president’s “good graces,” even though
“It gives him an advantage that a front-runner has never had before to absolutely wrap it up by Super Tuesday,” Ben Ginsburg, a longtime Republican election lawyer and veteran of the 2000 Florida recount, told the newspaper. Ginsburg has been a frequent critic of Trump.
The behind-the-scenes machinations are a contrast to how Trump has acted on the campaign trail- having infrequent rallies, not participating in debates, and not being as present on the trail as he was in 2016, that last time Trump ran in a competitive Republican primary for president.
Does it matter, with Trump enjoying such a huge early lead? Maybe not. But according to the Times, the strategy by Trump’s team “ amounts to a fail-safe in case Mr. DeSantis — or anyone else — scores a surprise victory in an early state. And it comes as Mr. Trump faces an extraordinary set of legal challenges, including four criminal indictments, that inject an unusual degree of uncertainty into a race Mr. Trump leads widely in national polling.”
The strategy also entails Trump engaging in “personal calls and chits, glad-handing, relationships and reprisals,” the sort of thing he is both good at and enjoys, according to the Times.
“This is the kind of stuff that’s not talked about in the news,” Scott Golden, the chairman of the Tennessee Republican Party, told the newspaper. “This is important stuff. It is ultimately about making sure your person is the nominee.”
Author Expertise and Experience:
Stephen Silver is a Senior Editor for 19FortyFive. He is an award-winning journalist, essayist and film critic, who is also a contributor to the Philadelphia Inquirer, the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, Broad Street Review and Splice Today. The co-founder of the Philadelphia Film Critics Circle, Stephen lives in suburban Philadelphia with his wife and two sons. Stephen has authored thousands of articles over the years that focus on politics, technology, and the economy for over a decade. Follow him on X (formerly Twitter) at @StephenSilver, and subscribe to his Substack newsletter.