Trump team changes obscure GOP rules in hopes of clinching presidential nomination early

Seema Mehta, Los Angeles Times on

Published in Political News

Strategic, surgical efforts by former President Donald Trump's campaign to overhaul obscure Republican Party rules in states around the nation, including California, have created an opportunity for the GOP front-runner to quickly sew up his party's presidential nomination.

The former president's aides have sculpted rules in dozens of states, starting even before his 2020 reelection bid. Their work is ongoing: In addition to California, state Republican parties in Nevada and Michigan have recently overhauled their rules in ways clearly designed to favor Trump.

This election, "despite a large number of candidates, only the Trump campaign went out and did the really hard grunt work of talking to state parties to try and get them to meld their rules to Donald Trump's favor," said Ben Ginsberg, a veteran GOP attorney who represented the presidential campaigns of George W. Bush — notably during the 2000 Florida recount — and Mitt Romney.

The Trump campaign succeeded in changing the rules "in part because they knew what they were doing and in part because everyone else is asleep at the switch," Ginsberg added.

The changes could discourage campaigning and decrease voter participation, said Dan Lee, a political science professor at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas.

"There's all this uncertainty, and there hasn't been much campaigning going on in Nevada. I think that's due to that uncertainty," Lee said.


The success of the Trump campaign's effort is partly attributable to his aggressive courting of state GOP leaders. The former president has headlined fundraisers that have raised millions of dollars for state parties. He wooed their leaders at the White House when he was president and has feted them at his Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida since leaving office.

"It's sort of an advantage no one else is going to naturally have," said Clayton Henson, a member of the Trump campaign's political team who worked on political affairs at the White House during the former president's tenure.

The Trump campaign's rule changes have focused on ensuring he benefits from how all-important delegates are awarded after each state caucus or primary.

Though much of the media attention in presidential campaigns focuses on polling, particularly in early-voting states, the outcome is ultimately determined by delegates chosen in each state. The wonky quilt of rules determining how delegates are awarded to candidates vary across the 50 states, Washington, D.C., and the U.S. territories. Each will send delegates to the Republican National Convention in Milwaukee next summer, when the party will formally pick its nominee.


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