COLUMBIA, S.C. — The Republican National Committee is expected to consider a resolution next week to declare Donald Trump the party’s “presumptive 2024 nominee,” even though only two states have voted and the former president has nowhere near the requisite number of delegates to clinch the mantle.
If approved, the measure would further solidify Trump’s control of the party and its operation at a time when former United Nations Ambassador Nikki Haley is still competing against Trump for the GOP nomination.
The measure, according to a draft obtained Thursday by The Associated Press, “declares President Trump as our presumptive 2024 nominee for the office of President of the United States and from this moment forward moves into full general election mode welcoming supporters of all candidates as valued members of Team Trump 2024.”
RNC Chair’s Approval
RNC Chair Ronna McDaniel already has signaled her approval. On Tuesday, after Haley finished second to Trump in New Hampshire, McDaniel said that while she felt the former ambassador had “run a great campaign,” Republicans “need to unite around our eventual nominee, which is going to be Donald Trump.”
News of the resolution, first reported by The Dispatch, comes as officials prepare to gather in Las Vegas next week for the RNC’s winter meeting, where it is expected to be discussed.
New Jersey Republican National Committeeman Bill Palatucci, a longtime supporter of former GOP presidential candidate Chris Christie, called the resolution “silly.”
“It’s insulting to millions of primary voters who wait for the opportunity to get involved in presidential politics every four years,” Palatucci said.
AP’s Stance on the Issue
Regardless of what the RNC decides, the AP will not refer to any candidate as the “presumptive nominee” until he or she has captured the number of delegates needed to win a majority vote at the national party conventions this summer. The earliest that could happen is March.
But there are no party rules prohibiting the RNC from making such a move. If adopted, it would give the Republican Party a jump-start on planning a general election matchup with Democratic President Joe Biden, who has begun framing his reelection campaign as a 2020 rematch against Trump.
And there is precedent for the committee declaring a candidate the presumptive nominee before winning the 1,215 requisite delegates to clinch the nomination. In May 2016, then-RNC Chairman Reince Priebus declared Trump the presumptive nominee before he had the appropriate share of delegates wrapped up.
Despite losing both the Iowa and New Hampshire contests to Trump, Haley has argued that her performance — outlasting all the other Trump rivals — shows the strength of her candidacy.
Trump currently has 32 delegates to Haley’s 17. There is one delegate left to be assigned after the New Hampshire contest.
Neither the Haley campaign nor the Trump campaign returned messages seeking comment on Thursday.
During a rally Wednesday night in her home state of South Carolina, Haley — the former governor — noted that her campaign had brought in more than $1 million since her second-place finish in New Hampshire. Trump followed up with a remark that appeared aimed at intimidating her donors.
“Anybody that makes a ‘Contribution’ to Birdbrain, from this moment forth, will be permanently barred from the MAGA camp,” Trump wrote, using the nickname he has crafted for Haley and the abbreviation for his “Make America Great Again” slogan. “We don’t want them, and will not accept them, because we Put America First, and ALWAYS WILL!”
Trump’s dismissal of any Haley donors had no effect on T.J. Petrizzo, a former top Capitol Hill staffer and now lobbyist who supports Haley.
“That’s something out of a ‘Godfather’ movie. Never betray the family? Come on,” he added. “You’ve got to play this through.”
Petrizzo said he understands that some Republicans may be ready to pivot to a head-to-head contest between Trump and Biden, but he notes that there is a lot of time left before a general election.
“I’ve heard a lot of elected officials in the Republican Party, including the RNC chair, say, ‘We need to rally around a candidate.’ That this is going to be our candidate. ‘It was chosen by Iowa and New Hampshire, so we must go ahead and rally around Trump,’” Petrizzo said. “Well, there’s 285 days until the election. There’s plenty of time on the clock.”
Beaumont reported from Des Moines, Iowa. Associated Press writer Zeke Miller in Washington contributed to this report.