Donald Trump is looking especially weak for an incumbent as he seeks re-election, even though winning a second term has been one of his primary goals as president, right up there with undoing every piece of legislation signed by Obama, no matter how slight, and lining his own pockets. His abysmal yet consistent job approval rating, the humiliating 2018 electoral defeats suffered by the GOP making it clear that Trump can’t survive by his base alone, and polls that show him losing to all the Democratic frontrunners suggest he’s got an uphill battle. In addition, he’s facing three primary challengers within his own party.
Rather than prove he’s the formidable contender that most incumbent presidential candidates often are, Trump campaign toadies have decided to cancel the 2020 primary contests in several states, such as South Carolina, homestate of Trump’s Republican challenger Mark Sanford, or rewriting the rules in other states like Massachusetts, homestate of Republican challenger Bill Weld, making it more difficult for primary challengers to earn delegates.
New rules require a candidate to receive between 15-20% of the vote to receive any delegates, and 50% to win all the delegates from a state. So far, the Republican committees in 37 states have adjusted their rules for the convenience of the Trump campaign – but they’re all inexplicably arguing that these rules somehow demonstrate the strength of Trump’s candidacy, at a time when polls show Donald Trump actually losing people within his base.
Sweeping this under the rug may backfire for Republicans – and it already has. In South Carolina, former Congressman Bob Inglis is suing the party for canceling its primary – a move that Republicans in other states are likely to follow, especially as Trump becomes more radioactive with each passing day.
This doesn’t mean that any of Trump’s challengers is very likely to take the nomination, but it’s a drain on resources the campaign could put to better use – while also lending more media publicity to the campaigns of Sanford and Weld. Trump and the GOP liked to accuse the Democrats of rigging their primary all throughout 2016, but now it’s clear that rigging has been their strategy all along.
James Sullivan is the assistant editor of Brain World Magazine and an advocate of science-based policy making