A California Republican showdown with Donald Trump is coming — two days after the former president skipped his party’s second 2024 primary debate in Simi Valley.
Trump is among the 2024 GOP contenders who will be in Anaheim Friday for the California GOP’s fall convention. The former president, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and South Carolina Sen. Tim Scott are expected to address the party faithful on Friday. Entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy is expected to follow them on Saturday.
California, with its 54 electoral votes, is a reliable Democratic candidate in the general election. But the state has an important role to play in the Republican primary: It’s a delegate-rich contest that takes place on Super Tuesday — the March 5 primary slate that could be decisive in the race for the GOP nomination .
Already, the balance of the California primary is tipped in Trump’s favor, as the state’s Republican Party rules could allow him to exclude his rivals from delegates altogether.
The California Republican Party’s executive committee voted this summer to adopt a delegation plan that could be a boon for the Trump campaign. If a candidate receives more than 50% of the vote in next year’s primary, that candidate will win all of the state’s delegates, the largest victory available in any state in the GOP presidential race.
It’s similar to the system California used in 2020, but it’s a departure from what the state has done in some other previous primaries, when each congressional district awarded three delegates — allowing candidates to strategically target regions specific, rather than facing the daunting cost of competing across the board. the massive state.
DeSantis’ allies worked for weeks behind the scenes to persuade California Republicans to reverse course. The pro-DeSantis super PAC Never Back Down, which is running much of DeSantis’ political campaign from the outside, expressed outrage at the California GOP’s decision.
“If California is a huge pot, how do you attack it from a grassroots perspective? » said a Never Back Down official. “Los Angeles has more people than Virginia. How do you attack this?
The official said the super PAC is “not giving up on California” but is unlikely to hold events for DeSantis or devote core resources – staff for door-to-door canvassing and efforts of organization – to the state unless the Republicans change course.
“States that actually want candidates to come need to allow appearances there to matter, and in a pool as big as California, it’s hard to matter,” said the responsible.
Trump’s trip to California comes at the end of his busiest campaign since launching his 2024 presidential bid.
The former president held a rally in South Carolina on Monday, visited auto workers in Michigan on Wednesday, travels to California on Friday and is expected to campaign in Iowa on Sunday.
The only stop missing from his travel schedule: the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, Calif., where seven GOP rivals participated in the second debate of the primary Wednesday night.
A 538/Washington Post/Ipsos poll released Thursday found that GOP primary voters who tuned in to the debate rated DeSantis’ onstage performance as the best, but that overall the showdown did not does much to change their perspectives.
The appearances in California by DeSantis, Scott and Ramaswamy come as Trump’s primary rivals clash in what appears to be an increasingly futile battle to emerge as the party’s only alternative to the former president.
DeSantis and Trump are scheduled to appear within hours of each other Friday in Anaheim. But the convention represents an opportunity for the Florida governor, whose second place in Republican Party primary polls has become shakier in recent weeks, to court the same crowd as the former president.
DeSantis criticized Trump’s decision to skip the debate Wednesday night and continued to call the former president “missing in action” the next day.
“He’s had a lot to say about me on social media,” DeSantis told Fox News. “It’s one thing to do it behind the keyboard. Get on stage and do it to my face. I’m ready for this. You said I was a great governor. Now all of a sudden you’re saying the opposite.
DeSantis also floated the idea of a one-on-one debate with Trump, moderated by Fox News host Sean Hannity.
Scott, who was largely sidelined during the first Republican debate, sought to gain more attention Wednesday night — criticizing fellow former South Carolina governor Nikki Haley, as well as Ramaswamy.
“I think it’s really important for us to contrast my position on some important issues with my position on others,” Scott told CNN afterward. “Frankly, Republican primary voters want to know what the differences are.
Ramaswamy, who was targeted on stage Wednesday by several rivals, laid out the next phase of his campaign in a post-debate interview with CNN’s Dana Bash, saying he hoped voters would get to know “a different side of me “.
“We’re not going to go into a media frenzy or anything going forward. I’ll talk to everyone, left and right media, whatever. But I’m going to focus more on what day one will look like,” he said.
This story has been updated with additional information.