Four states are prepared to cancel Republican presidential primaries and caucuses for the 2020 presidential elections — Kansas being one of them. The Kansas GOP said they made this decision because the party typically chooses to endorse the incumbent from their party.
The decision upset opposing GOP presidential candidates such as Joe Walsh, former Illinois congressman, who, according to the New York Times, said the decision was comparable to “something a mob boss would do.”
The Republican and Democratic parties have cancelled primaries and caucuses before — usually because the sitting president represents their party and holds enough favor to potentially win reelection.
The decision is left to the state’s discretion. Nathaniel Birkhead, associate professor of political science, said cancelling caucuses and primaries is not unusual.
“It’s slightly more uncommon because there are a few notable candidates entering the race — between Walsh and [Bill] Weld and [Mark] Sanford,” Birkhead said. “And so, these are all people who have held political office before, all people who have relatively decent name recognition, all people who have decent campaign finance behind them. And because of that, it’s slightly — though I’m going to emphasize slightly — unusual.”
According to the most recent Gallup poll, President Trump’s approval rating among Republicans is 91 percent. Birkhead said the high level of support is a reason Republicans are foregoing the caucus.
“President Trump is still quite popular among the Republican base,” he said. “And so, as a consequence, it’s not that anomalous in that respect.”
Joshua Willis, president of K-State College Republicans and sophomore in political science, said parties may choose to cancel a primary or caucus to save money.
“Some people think caucuses — they help with turnout, they help with competition and they help the state,” Willis said. “They help bring campaign money into the state, so to speak. But ultimately, I think the president’s got enough support within the Republican party that a caucus isn’t needed.”
Trey Kuhlmann, sophomore in political science, said the decision is normal for parties whose incumbent is running.
“It’s pretty typical for the caucus to be cancelled when there is an incumbent running and this is no different,” Kuhlman said. “The president has plenty of widespread support and his primary challengers aren’t close [enough] to well-known to make it worthwhile. It’s the expected move of state GOPs.”
Birkhead said party elites and members have a similar goal.
“In this particular case, this particular context, I think it’s important just to think about the fact that party elites and most party members really want the same candidate to win,” Birkhead said. “In that context, it’s harder to kind of find much separation there.”
Willis said he thinks cancelling the caucus isn’t a huge deal — though some people may think that way.
“Republicans and Democrats have a history of canceling caucuses when the incumbent is in the office and they’re very popular,” Willis said. “And I think it’s pretty clear that the president is going to be the nominee for the Republican Party.”