Former President Donald Trump currently appears to be a heavy favorite to win a third nomination for the presidency in 2024, far ahead of his next closest challenger in Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, who has yet to formally declare.
But there is a long way to go, and the GOP's primary system could still throw a monkey wrench into the process.
On Monday, writing for Vox, reporter Ben Jacobs described the "chaotic, expensive, and widely misunderstood" system Trump will have to navigate — the first time since 2016 that the former president has had to seriously compete with other candidates.
"There are broad parameters set nationally by the Republican National Committee, but outside of that, it’s a free-for-all where each state can make its own rules," wrote Jacobs.
"The result is a cornucopia of contests. States can hold conventions, caucuses, or primaries. Some states are winner-take-all primaries, meaning that the candidate who receives a plurality of the votes gets all the delegates; some are proportional, meaning that delegates are awarded in proportion to what percentage of the vote each candidate receives; and some are mixed, with elements of both. In some states, candidates have to hand-pick and recruit delegates to stand on a ballot as their supporters. In others, the delegates are chosen in entirely different contests, elected by activists, and then assigned to the presidential candidates who emerge from the state’s primary."
This stands in contrast to the Democratic primary rules, which are much more standardized and straightforward — every state has a proportional contest and uses the same formula for awarding delegates. Once upon a time, so-called "superdelegates," or unpledged delegates who could vote whichever way they wanted regardless of the popular vote, were an issue in those contests, but a series of reforms after the 2016 election limited their voting powers.
"The question is how much any of this will matter in 2024," stated the Vox report. "
The formal ballot to determine the nominee on the convention floor has long been pro forma. No Republican convention has formally hit a second ballot since 1948," wrote Jacobs, adding that "For Trump and DeSantis, it is not likely that they will be scrimping for money or media attention in the weeks before the first nominating contest.
"But building up a delegates operation still matters for them — not just for a potential convention fight, but to demonstrate their strength and viability before the first votes are cast. Voters and donors want to back a winner, and a robust national campaign demonstrates the ability to win not only the nomination but potentially the general election as well."
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