Monday, September 30, 2019

At the End of the Calendar, a Tweak to 2020 Montana Republican Delegate Selection

On the surface, there is not much that separates the delegate selection plan Montana Republican used in 2016 and what the party will carry forward into 2020.

Yes, the primary in Treasure state will fall at the end of the Republican presidential primary calendar, and yes, the allocation will remain winner-take-all for the second consecutive cycle. Those toplines are exactly as they were for the last cycle.

However, the overall process is not without some differences relative to 2016. And those changes do not occur in the delegate allocation portion, but on the delegate selection front. The plurality winner in the June 2 presidential primary will receive all of the delegates to the national convention from the state of Montana. But how those delegate slots are filled and by whom is a bit different for 2020.

In 2016, the power to elect/select delegates to the national convention was within the roles and responsibilities of the Montana state convention without any formal input from the candidate and campaign of the primary winner. That will differ from what will occur in 2020.

Under the rules adopted by the Montana Republican Party adopted in June, the convention will retain the role of ratifying who the national convention delegates from the state are, but will defer to the campaign of the presidential primary-winning candidate on identifying a slate of delegates. Instead of holding both roles -- identifying/selecting delegates and ratifying that -- the state convention will now only hold the latter role. The winning candidate's campaign chooses the slate of delegates and then the state convention ratifies that by majority vote. Should that slate fail to receive that ratification from the state convention, then the candidate submits a new slate (or slates) until that majority threshold is met.

Functionally, this would likely cede in 2020 the selection role to the Trump reelection effort, and that slate would be highly likely to pass muster with the delegates to the Montana Republican state convention. This is another example of a subtle shift in state-level rules that could be interpreted as incumbent-friendly.

It is also a rules change that seemingly has a sunset provision in the rules. Section B.III.F.3 of the Montana Republican Party rules is specific to the 2020 cycle. There is no expiration included in the rule, but a change will have to be made to apply this to 2024 or tweak it for that cycle.

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