Florida GOP Rejects Calls to Cancel Primary, Chairman Says Trump Will 'Annihilate' Challengers

Florida's Republican Party is rallying around President Donald Trump's 2020 reelection campaign, with the state GOP chairman rejecting calls to cancel a primary he says Trump will win in a "blowout."

Florida GOP Chairman Joe Gruters said he and other members of the party are rejecting calls to cancel the March 2020 presidential primary vote, declaring that Trump will "annihilate" his three Republican challengers: former South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford, former Illinois congressman Joe Walsh and former Massachusetts Governor Bill Weld. Gruters expressed complete confidence in Trump's ability to win the primary vote, citing the president's consistent 95 percent approval rating among Florida Republicans.

Speaking with the Palm Beach Post Monday, Gruters said he saw no reason to meddle with the March 17 primary process and reiterated that members of his party are "all-in" for Trump.

"He's just so popular that I think it helps him," Gruters, a state senator from Sarasota, said of holding the Republican primary vote. "There's just no need to cancel something when it's going to be an absolute blowout."

"If people think that they want to challenge the president, by all means, go ahead, they're going to get annihilated," Gruters aded to the Post's Abraham Mahshie. "We're all-in for the president but that doesn't mean that we're going to change the rules. We want to make sure the primary system lives on."

Gruters said some Republicans were pressuring him to cancel the presidential primary alongside four other states, South Carolina, Nevada, Kansas and Alaska. Although many strategists have argued that the emergence of primary challengers is a sign of dissension among the party ranks, Gruters said "the president has so much support," he sees no need to "stifle" the primary voting process.

In March 1992, George H.W. Bush lost nearly one-third of his votes to primary rival Pat Buchanan. Despite prevailing, he went on to lose to Democrat Bill Clinton in the general election that November.

In an opinion piece for the Sarasota Herald-Tribune Gruters penned Monday, he called on fellow Republicans to reject an amendment proposed to the Florida constitution which would open primaries to potential unaffiliated voters. But Gruters said the proposal pitch-line of allowing "All voters in primary elections for state Legislature, Governor and Cabinet" is deceiving and is more of an "abolishment of primaries" altogether.

florida republican primary joe gruters
"They’re going to get annihilated," Florida GOP chairman Joe Gruters said of President Trump's 2020 primary challengers Screenshot: Facebook | Joe Gruters

"But it actually abolishes party primaries for governor, cabinet, and the state legislature, in favor of a jungle primary that can be more easily manipulated by special interests and political consultants," Gruters argued.

Florida's top Republicans ranging from Governor Ron DeSantis to Senators Marco Rubio and Rick Scott have been using Democrats' discussion of impeaching Trump to their advantage. Last week, DeSantis, whose endorsement from Trump helped him narrowly win his own election, sent out fundraising emails labeling impeachment efforts a "charade."

A September 18 poll conducted by Florida Atlantic University (FAU) showed Trump ahead of his GOP rivals by a massive margin. Trump pulled in 85 percent of support compared to Sanford with 8 percent, Walsh with 5 percent and Weld with only 2 percent. But Gruters reiterated his lack of concern over Trump's reelection probability.

"In Florida, he's probably stronger here among the base then maybe anywhere in the country," he concluded.