Minnesota iced: MN GOP blocks Trump challengers from primary ballot

Some Republican state parties have dispensed with presidential primaries next year, while others plan on using a normal process. In the midst of a sharp debate over these two strategies, Minnesota’s GOP has attempted to find a happy medium. Their voters will still be able to vote in next year’s presidential primary for the candidate of their choice … as long as their choice is incumbent Donald Trump:

President Donald Trump will be the only choice on the ballot in Minnesota’s Republican presidential primary, even though he is not the only candidate running.

That’s at the direction of the Republican Party of Minnesota. Its chairwoman, Jennifer Carnahan, sent a letter to the Minnesota Secretary of State on Oct. 24 outlining its “determination of candidates” for the March 3, 2020 Republican primary ballot.

Trump is the only name listed. Absent are three other Republican candidates who, while long shots, are prominent political names: former Massachusetts Gov. William Weld, former South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford and former U.S. Rep. Joe Walsh of Illinois.

Not only did Carnahan lock out the other candidates, Star Tribune’s Patrick Condon notes, she also made sure that none of them could sneak onto it. Her request did not include room on the ballot for write-in candidates, nor the option to vote for delegates instead who might be more independent. That means Republican voters in the land of Minnesota Nice will only have one line on the ballot, and no option except to fill in its bubble on the optical-scan ballot or leave it blank.

This, by the way, is final. Once the party makes its submission, “changes must not be made to the candidates that will appear on the ballot,” according to the Minnesota statute.  That might be a bit awkward if Trump gets removed from office — a very remote possibility, of course, but at least slightly more likely than in previous re-elect campaigns.

Why lock everyone else out of the primary? Carnahan says Trump’s so wildly popular with Minnesota Republicans that she had a duty to ensure that, er, no one proved otherwise:

“President Trump is extremely popular in Minnesota and my job as Chairwoman is to make sure we deliver our 10 electoral votes to the President on November 3, 2020,” Republican Party Chair Jennifer Carnahan said in a written statement.

If he’s that popular — and I do think he is that popular among Minnesota Republicans, mind you — then there should be no issue with having a normal primary. Trump would easily beat Weld, Sanford, and Walsh here in Minnesota, in part because none of them have put together any kind of serious organization to challenge Trump. The delegates would be his anyway, and if Carnahan is actually worried about that, why not just cancel the presidential primary as other states have done, as well as the caucuses, and save the party some money? This is the worst of all options in terms of optics.

Walsh blasted Carnahan on Twitter, claiming she had “disenfranchised” Minnesota Republicans:

NARRATOR: This was America and it was allowed to stand. Well, it’s Minnesota, anyway, which is like America but nicer. Think of us as Sorta Canadian. That’s close enough … except for maybe the Twin Cities, which are a lost cause.

Speaking of the Twin Cities (sorry, neighbors!), Sanford compared it to voting in the old Soviet Union and North Korea in an interview with Condon:

“The idea that we’re taking our cues from North Korea or the Soviet Union in terms of voter access and voter participation just seems weird to me,” Sanford said in an interview Thursday. Minnesota voters are the biggest losers, Sanford said, adding he suspects that state party leaders are worried a contested primary would show Trump isn’t as popular as they want to portray.

Well .. yeah, that’s the impression it leaves. It does make sense for parties with incumbent first-term presidents to save money and effort by canceling primaries, especially when no truly serious challenge emerges, and it’s not that uncommon either. That’s not what Carnahan has done here, though. Take it or leave it isn’t a primary; it’s an edict, and that may rub even some Trump supporters the wrong way here in Minnesota.

This might make the results even more interesting than they would otherwise be. How many Republican ballots will leave the slot blank as a protest? I’d bet it won’t be an inconsiderable number. That might look worse than having a relatively paltry number of Never Trump votes split between the three fringe candidates.

Note: This post was updated shortly after initial publication to make more jokes about Minnesota. Yah, Ole, lemme tell ya tha one about Lena …