So far, Republican parties in four states have canceled their 2020 presidential primaries or caucuses, assisting President Donald Trump in fending off a primary challenge from within the party. Utah will most likely not follow suit.
During the 2019 legislature, Utah lawmakers passed legislation to set up and fund a statewide presidential primary on “Super Tuesday” next year. Most of the attention will be on the Democratic side of the ballot, but Utah Republicans also declared that they would participate in the primary, even though Trump is the incumbent. Former Massachusetts Gov. Bill Weld, along with former GOP congressmen Joe Walsh and Mark Sanford.
Utah GOP Chairman Derek Brown says the party has not discussed canceling their participation in the March primary.
“Since we’re on Super Tuesday for the first time, it’s kind of a big deal,” he said.
Even if the Utah GOP wanted to abandon the vote in March, it’s not clear that they could. Parties had to confirm to the state that they would participate by August 10, which the Utah GOP did. The state elections office tells UtahPolicy.com there is no mechanism in the law for a political party to withdraw from the party.
A Republican primary in Utah could be a risky proposition for Trump. Trump finished a distant third in the 2016 Utah GOP primary behind Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio. Trump did carry Utah in the 2016 presidential election, but only captured 45.5% of the vote. He remains unpopular as polling shows his approval rating has never crested 50%. A July Utah Political Trends survey found 53% of Utahns disapprove of Trump’s job performance, and fewer than 40% of Utahns are ready to vote to give Trump a second term right now. One of his Republican challengers, Bill Weld, has predicted he’ll win the Utah GOP primary in 2020.
Brown says they are not getting any pressure from President Trump’s re-election campaign to skip the 2020 primary.
“We had folks from the Trump committee here when the party voted to be part of the ‘Super Tuesday’ primary,” says Brown. “I think it makes it clear where we stand as a state. They know that it’s an important issue for us.”
Republican leaders in Nevada, South Carolina, Kansas and Alaska decided to scrap their nominating contests and give their delegates automatically to President Trump despite the presence of several intra-party challengers. Alaska’s Republican Party passed a rule saying a primary in 2020 “would serve no useful purpose” according to the AP.