Calif. GOP shakes up delegate rules. Will it help Trump, neuter March Primary, or both?

Changes to the method of awarding delegates atracted controversy from supporters of both former President Donald Trump and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis.

Facing the prospect of losing delegates to the 2024 Republican National Convention, California GOP members voted to change how delegates are awarded to the winner of the March 5 Primary.

The move, backed by former President Donald Trump’s campaign, is said to imminently make the state’s early primary election considerably less competitive.


Driving the news: Party officials voted to adopt a new rule stating that any Republican presidential candidate who receives over 50% of the vote in the March 5 primary will win all 169 delegates from California, the highest number in the nation.

  • If no one reaches the majority threshold, delegates will be awarded proportionally based on the statewide vote.
  • Tensions ran high during the Saturday executive committee meeting where the plan was approved. Bizarrely, pro-Trump demonstrators – led by fringe conservative Laura Loomer – opposed the change.

The big picture: The decision reflects efforts by Trump’s campaign to shape state party rules across the country in his favor. Other Republican Parties in states like Michigan, Idaho, Nevada, Louisiana, and Colorado are considering similar measures to benefit Trump.

  • The previous Golden State delegate system, whereby delegates were won by Congressional district, allowed candidates to strategically target specific areas rather than campaign and advertise across the expensive media markets of California.
  • The Trump campaign supported the plan because polling shows he can win over half the votes in California’s GOP primary, allowing him to secure all of the state’s delegates.

Differing views: State party leaders believe the new plan will still attract candidates to campaign in California, giving Republican voters a chance to support their preferred candidate and help them win delegates.

  • Critics, however, argue that the new rules will discourage candidates from campaigning in California due to the high cost of advertising statewide and the smaller impact of motivating volunteers.
  • The decision to change the delegate allocation rules could weaken California’s influence in the next GOP primary and potentially lead to candidates prioritizing other states in their campaign efforts.

What they’re saying: “Republican presidential candidates will not only be encouraged to spend real time campaigning in our state and making their case to voters, but Republican voters will equally be encouraged to turn out to support their chosen candidate to help them win delegates,” said California GOP chair Jessica Millan Patterson.

  • “Smoke filled back rooms do not reflect the will of or benefit voters in any state,” said Ken Cuccinelli, founder of the Ron DeSantis-supporting Never Back Down PAC, “Yet across the country games are afoot to enhance the potential outcome of primary elections for one former president who half of the Republican electorate no longer wants as the party leader.”
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