Advance Notice: Briefs

Republicans change primary rules to give Trump better shot at winning Michigan

By: - September 19, 2019 12:44 pm

President Donald J. Trump gives a thumbs up prior to boarding Air Force One at Joint Base Andrews, Md., Saturday, Dec. 7, 2019, en route to Hollywood, Fla. | Official White House Photo by Joyce N. Boghosian via Flickr Public Domain

The Michigan Republican Party is making it much more likely that President Donald Trump will win the state’s presidential primary in March 2020.

The new rules instituted by the party this year raise the percentage of the statewide vote needed to receive any of Michigan’s delegates to 20%, up from 15% in 2016, MLive reported. Any candidate who earns more than 50% of the state will still receive all 73 delegates.

Trump, who won Michigan’s 2016 primary, has three primary opponents challenging him next year, although all are seen as fairly long-shot choices.

Former Massachusetts Gov. Bill Weld has the best poll numbers of the challengers, with a new national poll from the Economist/YouGov showing he has 5% support from GOP primary or caucus voters. Former South Carolina U.S. Rep. Mark Sanford comes next at 2%, followed by former Illinois Rep. Joe Walsh at just 1%.

Trump still holds a strong national lead, with 86% of Republican voters’ support and an 85% favorability rate among the nearly 800 respondents.

William Weld at the NAACP candidate forum | Andrew Roth

Michigan’s delegate allocation changes come into play as several other states are taking similar action, seemingly to boost Trump’s likelihood of winning their state. Arizona, Nevada, South Carolina and Kansas have chosen to forgo holding Republican primaries and caucuses entirely, essentially handing Trump a win in their state.

Trump has praised these decisions, citing cost as a good reason to cancel primaries and caucuses. Weld, Sanford and Walsh all fervently oppose the cancellations and view them as damaging to the democratic process.

It’s still dubious as to whether any one of Trump’s three challengers will gain enough momentum to earn 15%, let alone 20% of the vote in Michigan — but the extra 5% bump in the rules could act as a Trumpian insurance policy against the possibility.

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Laina G. Stebbins
Laina G. Stebbins

Laina G. Stebbins is a former Michigan Advance reporter. A lifelong Michigander, she is a graduate of Michigan State University’s School of Journalism, where she served as Founding Editor of The Tab Michigan State and as a reporter for the Capital News Service.