Friday, October 4, 2019

For Maine Republicans, 2020 Will Feature a Primary Instead of a Caucus

The Maine state legislature this summer passed legislation that was later signed into law that reestablished a presidential primary in the Pine Tree state for the first time since the 2000 cycle. One of the facets of that effort was a division along party lines. Democratic legislators in the majority supported the primary while legislative Republicans opposed it, favoring the pre-existent caucus/convention system.

That raised some questions once the bill became law. Maine Democrats were eager to support the new primary election -- especially given new rules-based encouragement from the Democratic National Committee to increase participation -- but it was an open question about whether Republicans in the Pine Tree state would opt into the new presidential primary or choose to instead stick with the caucus/convention system the party had used through much of the 21st century.

But as the Republican National Committee deadline for state parties to finalize delegate selection processes for the 2020 cycle approached and passed on October 1, it became clear that Maine Republicans would follow the lead of Democrats in the state and opt into the presidential primary election.

This was noteworthy because Maine was among the states in 2004 -- the last Republican presidential nomination process featuring an incumbent Republican president -- canceled its presidential preference vote at the caucuses that year. That presumably would have been an option for Maine Republicans for 2020 as well. The party certainly would not have been alone in forgoing a preference vote for the purposes of allocating delegates. At least six other states have already canceled primaries or caucuses. Maine Republicans, however, have taken a different tack in deciding to use the newly reestablished presidential primary.

Finally, the Bangor Daily News reports that at least some of the 2016 allocation rules will carry over to the 2020 process for Maine Republicans. There will, for instance, still be a winner-take-all trigger layered into the rules to reward a candidate with all of the state's delegates if that candidate wins a majority of the vote statewide. That trigger stands a much greater chance of being tripped in 2020 with a popular (within the Republican primary electorate) president seeking renomination against only token opposition.

How much of the remainder of the 2016 allocation rules in Maine's Republican process remains a bit of a mystery. FHQ's attempts to reach out to the Maine Republican Party for clarification have so far gone unanswered. Should that change, there will be an update on the overarching delegate allocation rules in the state in this space.

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