President Trump said Monday that some state Republican parties are opting out of holding presidential nominating contests because they “don’t want to waste their money,” sidestepping the issue of whether the trend makes it more difficult for his three GOP challengers to rack up delegates.
In an exchange with reporters outside the White House late Monday afternoon, Trump said he has “nothing to do with” the decision by several state parties to cancel their primaries and caucuses.
Earlier Monday, the Arizona Republican Party became the latest to do so, following on the heels of the state parties in South Carolina, Kansas and Nevada.
“Those four states don’t want to waste their money,” Trump said. “Having primary campaigns and having a primary election is very expensive.”
Some state parties have previously called off their primaries and caucuses in past elections when an incumbent is running for reelection.
Trump faces three challengers for the Republican presidential nomination — former Illinois congressman Joe Walsh, former South Carolina congressman Mark Sanford and former Massachusetts governor Bill Weld.
The president argued that “if there was a race,” state parties would “certainly want” to hold primaries and caucuses. But he dismissed his competitors, noting that polling shows them barely registering among likely Republican voters.
“Look, the three people are a total joke. They’re a joke. They’re a laughingstock,” he said.
While Trump’s overall approval rating is underwater, he remains immensely popular among the Republican base. A Monmouth University poll last month showed that 84 percent of Republicans approve of the president’s job performance.
In his remarks to reporters, Trump did not clarify whether he was speaking about taxpayers or state Republican parties bearing the costs of presidential primaries and caucuses.
The responsibility for the cost of early presidential nominating contests varies from state to state.
In South Carolina, for instance, the state pays the costs of holding a primary, while in Arizona, the state reimburses counties a certain amount per active voter, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.
Nevada and Kansas typically choose their presidential nominees through caucuses, which are organized and paid for by the state party.
A Nevada Republican Party spokesman told CBS News that the state party would save as much as $150,000 by canceling its 2020 caucuses.
Trump’s challengers, naturally, are not enthused by the disappearance of some state nominating contests this cycle.
“Canceled primaries?” Weld tweeted Sunday. “What are you afraid of, Mr. No-Show? Intelligent, experienced, honest and decent competitors? Now more than ever, @realDonaldTrump, you can run but you cannot hide.”