Sunday, October 6, 2019

Rhode Island GOP Inserts Winner-Take-All Trigger into 2020 Delegate Allocation

Late last month as the RNC deadline for state Republican parties to finalize delegate selection procedures for the 2020 cycle, Rhode Island Republicans made some adjustments.

Four years ago, the party allocated its 19 delegates in a proportional manner to candidates who received more than 10 percent of the vote either statewide or in the two Ocean state congressional districts. Little of that has made its way into the process the party has set up for 2020.

First of all, RIGOP has pooled all of its delegates -- at-large, congressional district and automatic -- instead of allocating them as separate categories. Additionally, there is now (as of a September 20 meeting of the state central committee) a winner-take-all trigger included. Should a candidate win a majority of the vote statewide, then that candidate would receive all 19 delegates in the Rhode Island delegation to the Republican National Convention. It is clear that the latter was added during that September meeting, but it is not as clear that the decision to pool all of the delegates occurred at that time as well.

There are at least some hints that some changes were made to the Rhode Island Republican Party delegate selection process before September. For example, the Providence Journal article outlining the new winner-take-all trigger also mentioned that the qualifying threshold to receive any delegates was set at 20 percent. That, too, is new for 2020. Again, the threshold for 2016 was just 10 percent. It has doubled to the RNC's maximum-allowed threshold and applies collectively to all 19 Rhode Island delegates.

No, 19 delegates is not likely to fundamentally affect the race for the 2020 Republican presidential nomination, but Rhode Island Republicans have made some changes to streamline their process and potentially maximize their influence (to the extent that can be done in the context of a regional primary with five other, often more delegate-rich, states). It also represents another datapoint in the narrative of how these state-level rules have come together on the Republican side ahead of 2020. State parties have moved in subtle and dramatic ways to increase the usage of winner-take-all rules or make other changes to potentially advantage the president's path to renomination.

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