Iowa GOP will hold caucuses in 2020 as other states cancel primaries

South Carolina, Arizona, Nevada opting out

By Rebecca Buck, CNN
Brendan Hoffman/Getty Images

(CNN) - The Iowa Republican Party will hold caucuses in 2020, even as some state Republican parties are opting to cancel their 2020 presidential primary elections as a show of support for President Donald Trump.

"It was never really a question," said party spokesperson Aaron Britt, who explained that the Iowa GOP viewed it as a matter of maintaining its vaunted status as the first battleground in the primary process. "We're first in the nation, and that's a role we take very seriously."

However, a handful of state parties, including South Carolina, Arizona and Nevada, are planning to forgo their primaries or caucuses next year. It is not unprecedented for state Republicans or Democrats to decide not to hold a presidential primary when an incumbent is running essentially uncontested.

But the move has been met with fierce push back from three Republicans currently challenging Trump.

In a Washington Post op-ed last week, former Massachusetts Gov. Bill Weld and former Reps. Joe Walsh of Illinois and Mark Sanford of South Carolina called the moves to cancel primaries a "disgrace."

"If a party stands for nothing but reelection," they wrote, "it indeed stands for nothing."

Britt said the Iowa GOP hasn't come under pressure from Trump allies to cancel its caucuses, adding, "Folks understand that this would be an opportunity for President Trump to show how strong he is in this state."

There's little question that Trump has a strong base of institutional support among Hawkeye State Republicans, however. State Party Chairman Jeff Kaufmann has been a vocal advocate for the president. Speaking at a Trump rally in 2017, Kaufmann suggested then-Trump critic Sen. Ben Sasse was not welcome to campaign in Iowa.

"He crosses the Missouri River, and in that sanctimonious tone, talks about what he doesn't like about Donald Trump," Kaufmann said at the time. "You know what, Sen. Sasse, I really don't care what you like. We love Donald Trump! And if you don't love him, I'd suggest you stay on your side of the Missouri River."

Last year, Kaufmann clarified that Republican challengers are "welcome" in Iowa.

"But if those challengers are criticizing Republicans and the president," he added, "I'll push back."

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