Trump Campaign Is Quietly Working on a GOP Primary Insurance Policy: NYT
Despite his fifty-plus point lead over the GOP 2024 primary field, former President Donald Trump has often seemed aloof from day-to-day campaigning, especially as he faces 91 felony charges, four indictments, and at least two civil trials. And yet, his campaign has quietly wielded his overwhelming influence over the Republican Party to reshape election rules in several crucial primary nominating contests, generating a kind of electoral insurance policy in case the race tightens over the next few months.
Trump and his team “have spent months working behind the scenes to build alliances and contingency plans with key party officials, seeking to twist the primary and delegate rules in their favor,” The New York Times reported Saturday in a major review of these efforts,
In no state have they had more success than Nevada, which Trump won by over 20 points in 2016. In September, the state GOP enacted new rules that restrict super PACs from sending speakers or campaign literature to caucus sites and keep them from acquiring data from the party. That move dealt a massive blow to the campaign of Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, which is relying heavily on its well-funded super PAC, Never Back Down.
Nevada’s state GOP chair, one of Trump’s fake electors in 2020, was part of a group of several state party officials who Trump brought to Mar-a-Lago in March.
“They’ve rigged it anywhere they thought they could pull it off,” said Ken Cuccinelli, a former Trump official and founder of Never Back Down. “No one has tried to rig the rules like Donald Trump has been doing here, at least in a very long time…And no one has ever done it who, in other circumstances, complains about the rules being rigged.”
“I don’t think they play fair,” added DeSantis campaign manager James Uthmeier. The Florida Governor’s campaign has not said whether DeSantis will apply to the Nevada ballot in February.
“Not only is it a strategic victory, but it’s also a moral defeat for” the DeSantis PAC, said Alex Latcham, who oversees Trump’s operations in early primary states, in an interview with the Times. Latcham described the DeSantis campaign’s criticism of the primary changes as “sour grapes on behalf of less sophisticated candidates or their organizations who were outworked and outmaneuvered. I mean, the reality is this is politics.”
Another state where recent delegate changes heavily favor the Trump campaign is California, where state officials recently adopted a winner-take-all rule for the primary, which favors the former president. Never Back Down responded to the new rule by effectively abandoning its efforts in California, including a mammoth door-knocking operation that had already hit over 100,000 homes throughout the Golden State. The Times reported that the Trump campaign was in direct contact with several of the state party’s executive committee members.
“It gives [Trump] an advantage that a front-runner has never had before to absolutely wrap it up by Super Tuesday,” longtime Republican lawyer Allen Ginsberg said of the California changes.
At the center of the Trump campaign’s effort is a little-known former White House aide, Clayton Henson, who, the Times reported, has “traversed the country for months on Mr. Trump’s behalf to establish a beachhead with party officials.” The campaign has reportedly wooed state GOP officials in states including Michigan, Nebraska, Kansas, Hawaii, and Tennessee.
“This is the kind of stuff that’s not talked about in the news,” Scott Golden, the chairman of the Tennessee GOP, said. “This is important stuff. It is ultimately about making sure your person is the nominee.”