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State Republican parties have become intraparty ‘combat zones’

As messy as conditions are at the Republican National Committee, it’s fair to say matters are even worse for the state Republican parties.

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Initially, it seemed like a financial problem. Halfway through 2023, I noted that the Republican Parties in Arizona, Colorado, Michigan, and Minnesota were all noticeably short on cash — despite their electoral significance — with some flirting with the possibility of going “bankrupt.”

More recently, it looked like a personnel problem. Last month, over the course of 17 days, the state Republican Parties in Florida, Arizona, and Michigan parted ways with their chairs under difficult circumstances.

There were also questions about whether it was really an organizational problem, as Nevada held a presidential primary and caucus on the same week for a series of confusing reasons that left local voters baffled. And did I mention that the Nevada GOP chair is currently under criminal indictment for his role in his party’s 2020 fake elector scheme? Because he is.

But stepping back, the problems plaguing the Republican Party at the state level aren’t limited to finances, personnel, or administration. It’s all of those problems and more. In fact, The New York Times reported that state Republican parties “in roughly half of the most important battleground states are awash in various degrees of dysfunction, debt and disarray.”

[A]cross the map, state parties have become combat zones for the broader struggles inside the G.O.P. between the party’s old guard and its ascendant Trump wing, with rifts that can prove divisive and costly.

This is an important point. If this were simply a matter of bad luck or some misjudgments, it’d be less noteworthy. But the problems plaguing state Republican parties are emblematic of a larger dynamic, not dissimilar to the challenges GOP leaders are facing on Capitol Hill: Radicalized followers of Donald Trump are creating schisms and breakdowns that officials still aren’t sure how to handle.

In Michigan, for example, we still don’t know which Republican Party is the actual Republican Party — both Kristina Karamo, the Trump-backed conspiracy theorist, and former Rep. Pete Hoekstra claim the chair — and the Associated Press reported this week that that locals might soon see “dueling presidential nominating conventions,” which would be every bit as messy as it sounds.

Are there practical consequences to all of this? The Times’ report added:

Strategists who have worked on past presidential campaigns say that state parties matter and that, when effective, they can serve as some of the most important unseen and unsung forces in national politics. They provide an efficient way for the national party to inject cash into key states and to coordinate field operations up and down the ballot, while allowing campaigns to leverage cheaper postage rates and unrivaled local know-how.

It’s why, as the article added, “inside the Trump operation, there is frustration over the sad state of affairs in key state parties.”

To be sure, the party is facing real challenges at the national level, as Donald Trump pushes out Republican National Committee Chair Ronna McDaniel and tries to install a new leadership team — including his daughter-in-law.

But as messy as conditions are at the RNC, it’s fair to say matters are even worse for the state Republican parties.