The question of whether former president Donald Trump will rise or fall continues to be in the spotlight. The Republican Party’s delegate-selection process across the United States may hold the key to telling whether Trump’s ascendant or in free fall.
Over the coming year and a half, the delegate selection process will show the strengths and weaknesses of Trump and his competitors.
Delegates are chosen by state primaries, conventions, and caucuses. This provides massive insight into the Republican Party, as well as voters in general.
How the GOP state parties decide how their convention delegates are selected may also show whether state parties will support Trump or rally behind someone else.
The Republicans and Democrats have very different rules.
As befits the parties’ different inclinations toward state vs. federal power. Democrats have for more than four decades imposed on states a requirement that delegates be allocated proportionally.
By contrast, the Republican National Committee pretty much leaves the decision up to the states.
Once the first wave of contests is over, the GOP can use proportional representation; winner-take-all by congressional district; winner-take-all by the state if a candidate gets 50 percent of the vote, or winner-take-all by plurality.
In recent years, that’s meant many Republican primaries have ended up in some version of the winner-take-all.
Trump’s nomination party in 2016 shows that while Trump was the front-runner, the winner-take-all rules in the GOP accelerated his nomination and made the selection less messy.
It shows the critical context for the upcoming 2024 presidential race. It suggests that Trump’s campaign has an under-appreciated advantage in experience. The Trump campaign itself reportedly sees contenders allowing the former president to simply seize the GOP nomination with a relatively small plurality of the vote, as he did in 2016.
Beyond experience, Trump also has a strong base inside many state GOP parties.
Experts say that if you are trying to figure out the presidential contest, watching the way campaigns try to shape how delegates are chosen is an invaluable guide to seeing where each contender stands.
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