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Amid infighting, Michigan Republicans set to deliver Trump another win

FILE PHOTO: Former U.S. President and Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump addresses the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) annual meeting in National Harbor, Maryland, U.S., February 24, 2024. REUTERS/Elizabeth Frantz/File Photo

By Nathan Layne

(Reuters) – Republicans will meet in Michigan on Saturday amid simmering internal turmoil to choose their presidential nominee, with Donald Trump expected to sweep the delegates at stake in the battleground state as he draws closer to the nomination.

Nearly 2,000 party insiders are registered to participate in a presidential caucus in the western Michigan city of Grand Rapids, where they will choose delegates for former President Trump or his lone remaining rival, former U.N. ambassador Nikki Haley, for the party’s national nominating convention in July.

Republicans will also hold caucuses in Missouri and Idaho on Saturday, among the final contests for Haley to alter the course of the race prior to Super Tuesday on March 5, the biggest day in the primaries, when 15 states and one territory will vote.

With victories in Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada, U.S. Virgin Islands and South Carolina under his belt, Trump is far and away the frontrunner in the race, with Haley hanging on thanks to support from donors keen for an alternative to the former president.

This election cycle Michigan Republicans devised a hybrid nominating system, split between a primary and a caucus.

Trump won the primary convincingly on Tuesday, securing 12 of 16 delegates up for grabs. He could take all of Michigan’s remaining 39 delegates at stake on Saturday, given that will be up to the roughly 2,000 precinct delegates who form the activist base of the party that leans heavily towards Trump.

“The expectation is that Trump sweeps the delegates from the convention,” said Matt Grossman, a political scientist at Michigan State University. “The activists in the party have been for Trump, but the voters have been for Trump as well.”

The Michigan contest on Saturday holds the potential for confusion and could spawn protests. Internal turmoil has been percolating in the party for months, pitting backers of Kristina Karamo against the faction of party members who voted to oust her as chair on Jan. 6, and installed Pete Hoekstra as chair.

Hoekstra, who Trump backed as chair, will oversee the convention in Grand Rapids. Karamo had been planning to chair a dueling convention in Detroit on Saturday, but that was canceled after a Michigan court this week affirmed her ouster and an appeals court denied her request to stay the ruling.

At the convention, precinct delegates will be split into 13 different caucuses, one for each of the state’s congressional districts. If a candidate wins a majority of votes in a caucus they take all three of its delegates, for a maximum total of 39.

How smoothly it will play out remains unclear. Pro-Karamo party chairs for at least two districts have called for caucus meetings separately from Grand Rapids. However, the results from those are unlikely to be accepted by the Republican National Committee, which last month formally recognized Hoekstra as state party chair.

Hoekstra, ambassador to the Netherlands during Trump’s presidency, said he was expecting 50% to 60% of the 1,900 credentialed precinct delegates to show up in Grand Rapids, and that his team was preparing for possible disruptions.

“We are going to try to do everything we can to run a very orderly process,” Hoekstra told Reuters.

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