Wednesday, September 18, 2019

Virginia Republicans Will Hold 2020 Presidential Preference Vote at State Convention

Much ink has been spilled of late about the number of Republican state parties considering or deciding to forgo primaries or caucuses during the 2020 presidential nomination cycle. There was a rash of these decisions during the first weekend of September when Republican parties in Arizona, Kansas, Nevada and South Carolina opted out of their respective delegate selection events for next year.

But those states are not alone, nor were they the first to opt for a more closed system of selecting and allocating delegates to the 2020 Republican National Convention in Charlotte.

In fact, during their late June state central committee meeting, Virginia Republicans entertained a motion to hold a presidential preference vote at the party's state convention and the Republican Senate nomination vote in a (June) primary. That motion was split into two questions and dealt with separately. While the state central committee voted in a narrow 40-35 roll call vote to conduct a Senate primary in June 2020, the party opted via an uncontroversial voice vote to skip the presidential primary in favor of a presidential preference vote at the party's state convention next year.

Like many of the states above, Virginia Republicans also have a history of selecting and allocating delegates through means other than a primary. Actually Virginia's use of a primary is more of a 21st century phenomenon. Other than 1988, both parties conducted delegate selection through caucus/convention systems or held firehouse primaries (Democratic state party-run contests) through the early years of the post-reform era. That included 1992, the only time in that late 20th century window when a Republican incumbent (George H.W. Bush) was up for renomination.

This was also the case in 2004 when George W. Bush was again seeking the Republican nomination. Virginia Republicans skipped the primary then as well.

Now, history will repeat itself in 2020 as Virginia Republicans will handle the preference vote, national convention delegate selection and delegate allocation at the state convention. Like in the other states, this is likely to benefit President Trump in his effort win, if not all of the delegates from Virginia, then certainly the lion share of them.

While this often gets described as maneuvering to insulate the president from a challenge, it has a history in a number of states -- particularly on the Republican side -- over time. Virginia is yet another data point for that in the 2020 cycle.

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