Bill Weld goes off on Republicans’ plans to cancel presidential primaries in several states

"That might be fine in a monarchy, but we overthrew ours two centuries ago."

Republican presidential candidate Bill Weld walks with people through the Iowa State Fair on August 11, 2019 in Des Moines, Iowa.
Republican presidential candidate Bill Weld walks with people through the Iowa State Fair on August 11, 2019 in Des Moines, Iowa. –Alex Edelman / Getty Images

Gov. Bill Weld’s already-uphill climb challenging President Donald Trump in the Republican primaries next year could be even tougher in several states — mainly because there won’t be an election.

Republican parties in four states — including two traditionally early-voting states — will finalize plans to cancel their 2020 primary elections during meetings this weekend, Politico first reported Friday.

GOP officials told the outlet that the moves are hardly unprecedented for a party with an incumbent president seeking reelection. However, with at least two prominent former elected officials as primary candidates, Weld says that canceling primaries amounts to an “unconscionable” and “anti-democratic” effort to “silence” Trump’s opponents.

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“In the United States of America we don’t elect a president by acclamation,” the former Massachusetts governor wrote in an email to supporters Friday afternoon.

In a tweet, he added that Trump “has made no secret of the fact that he wishes to be crowned as President rather than elected.”

“That might be fine in a monarchy, but we overthrew ours two centuries ago,” Weld wrote.

Joe Walsh, the former Illinois congressman who recently announced a primary campaign against Trump, had even stronger words.

“It’s utter bulls—,” Walsh told ABC News in an interview Friday. “It’s undemocratic. It’s what a mob boss would do and that’s how Trump’s behaving right now.”

According to Politico, GOP officials in South Carolina, Nevada, Arizona, and Kansas are all expected to move to cancel their primaries, following behind-the-scenes efforts by Trump re-election campaign to squash any intraparty dissent headed into their 2020 convention.

However, there’s also a history of parties of an incumbent president canceling primaries in those states to save money, since the parties pay for primary elections.

But when it has happened, it has usually been the case that the president was running without any major primary challengers. Arizona Democrats didn’t hold a presidential primary in 2012 and 1996. Kansas did the same in 1996, citing $1.4 million in savings. And both parties in South Carolina have canceled primaries twice since the 1980s.

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“These are decisions made entirely by state parties and there are volumes of historical precedents to support them,” Tim Murtaugh, a Trump campaign spokesman, told The New York Times. “Nevertheless, President Trump will dominate and prevail in whatever contest is placed before him.”

There might just be four fewer contests than usual next year — at least.

According to the Times, Republicans in 10 states canceled primaries in 2004, Democrats canceled primaries in eight states in 1996, and eight states, including Iowa, canceled GOP primaries in 1992. Conservative commentator Pat Buchanan, who challenged President George H.W. Bush in the Republican primary that year, told Politico that the lack of the South Dakota primary crippled his momentum following a surprising strong finish (though still a double-digit loss) in New Hampshire

“If you think you can’t fight city hall, try overthrowing the president of the United States,” Buchanan said.

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