Did SC GOP dodge its own rules?

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GREENVILLE, S.C. (WSPA) – A weekend vote by South Carolina Republicans to forego a presidential primary may have broken the party’s own rules.

When that decision was announced Saturday, the party cited precedent and a popular incumbent as reasons not to hold a primary early next year.

When news of the vote started to make the rounds Monday, the decision came under even more scrutiny.

Party leaders said not holding a primary will save over $1 million.

Voters who support President Donald Trump will likely accept that argument, but Danielle Vinson, professor of Politics and International Affairs at Furman University, believes that may not be the case for voters unhappy with the incumbent.

“They will be frustrated they don’t have an opportunity to go weigh in and voice that opinion,” Vinson said.

Vinson said that frustration may come from Republican voters in South Carolina who now won’t get a chance to vote against President Trump in a primary.

The way leadership at the state GOP went about it, she said, appeared to go against the rules.

“I think they’re skirting their own rules,” Vinson said. “It’s the executive committee that’s made a decision that’s supposed to be brought before the convention.”  

That didn’t happen Saturday when the South Carolina GOP Executive Committee voted to cancel it’s “First in the South” primary in 2020. That’s something that wasn’t decided by the state party convention.

When it was decided to scrap the primary leaders pointed to the past, like in 1984 with Ronald Reagan and 2004 with George W. Bush, when  precedent was set with incumbent presidents running again.

Vinson said it’s not without precedent to have an incumbent president face primary voters in South Carolina.

“They did have a primary against incumbent George H.W. Bush in 1992 in South Carolina when Pat Buchanan challenged him,” she said.

This time around, Vinson pointed out Trump has challengers.  

“There really weren’t any challengers to those incumbent presidents. This president has attracted three what would be considered reputable candidates,” she said.

All three are proven vote getters – former Massachusetts Gov. Bill Weld (R), former Rep. Joe Walsh (R-Ill.) and former Rep. Mark Sanford (R-S.C.).

Sanford officially jumped in the race Sunday with an announcement on Fox News.

“I am here to tell you now that I am going to get in,” Sanford told Chris Wallace.

Sanford’s entrance and the others, Vinson said, raises questions about the party’s incumbent.

She said right now the Trump campaign is able to dismiss arguments made against the president as “fake news.”

“But, it’s harder when it’s coming from people within the party,” she said.

Vinson did say unless the party gets a lot of public pressure it’s unlikely to back off of the decision not to hold a primary.

The interesting question she said will come in whether the candidates themselves decide to sue to push the state into a primary.  

7News spoke with the Greenville County GOP chairman Monday night over the phone.

He said he still supports not holding a primary, but would not speak on the record over the legality of the vote.

Copyright 2019 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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