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Why Michigan GOP has a presidential primary and caucus convention this year

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Early voting for Michigan’s presidential primary begins Saturday, 10 days before the official Feb. 27 election. (Bridge file photo by Jonathan Oosting)
  • Michigan Republican Party plans primary and caucus convention system to award presidential nominating delegates
  • Donald Trump, Nikki Haley will compete for 16 Michigan delegates in the Feb. 27 primary
  • Michigan GOP activists will decide how to award 39 other presidential delegates in congressional district caucus meetings on March 2

LANSING — Michigan voters will help decide whether Donald Trump is again the GOP presidential nominee, but state party activists will have an even larger say under a new and unique plan set to unfold in coming weeks. 

The Michigan GOP this year will split its presidential delegates to the Republican National Convention based on the results of both the Feb. 27 primary – which is open to all voters – and a March 2 caucus convention that will be limited to party loyalists.


The convention is set to take place at the Huntington Place in Detroit, but some details could change because of a leadership feud between Kristina Karamo and Pete Hoekstra, who both currently claim to chair the Michigan GOP. 

The Republican National Committee on Wednesday voted to recognize Hoekstra as chair, but Karamo has said she is not conceding and still plans to run the convention.


It’s all a bit confusing. Here’s what you need to know.

What’s up with a primary and a caucus?

The Michigan Republican Party was forced to develop a new plan after the Democratic-led Legislature moved up the state's government-run primary election from mid-March to Feb. 27, which Democratic President Joe Biden had requested.

Republican National Committee rules deter states from jumping to the front of the primary line without party permission, which would have penalized the state party for awarding delegates from any election before March 1.

So with the national party’s blessing, the Michigan GOP developed a hybrid plan, to allow the state party to retain its full slate of 55 delegates to the national presidential nominating convention, which is set for July in Milwaukee. 

Don’t primary voters decide the nominee?

Not quite. 

Like any other presidential year, presidential preference contests decide how many Michigan delegates will be pledged to each candidate at the national convention, where the nominee is officially selected. 

Does the Feb. 27 primary still matter for Republicans?

Yes, but not as much as in normal years.

Michigan will hold both a Democratic and Republican presidential primary election on Feb. 27. Republican voters will decide how the state party awards 16 of its presidential nominating delegates to the Republican National Convention in Milwaukee in mid-July. Had the primary not moved, voters would have selected all 55 nominating delegates.

Absentee ballots are already out, and nine days of early voting begins Saturday. 

Trump, former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley and Texas entrepreneur Ryan Binkely are competing in the GOP primary. Four candidates who already ended their campaigns will also appear on ballots, which were printed before they dropped out. 

Any candidate who gets 12.5% of the GOP primary vote will be guaranteed at least two delegates from Michigan. 

They can earn another delegate for each 6.25% of the primary vote they receive, and the popular vote winner will get any leftovers. 

If Michigan's results mirrored New Hampshire’s, where Trump won 54.3% of the GOP primary vote to Haley's 43.2%, he'd win 10 primary delegates to her six. 

But in a state party caucus convention that could be stacked with his supporters, Trump could also win many more delegates there.

How will the March 2 caucus convention work?

The Michigan GOP will allocate 39 of its 55 presidential nominating delegates based on the results of 13 separate congressional district caucus meetings at a March 2 convention. 

All meetings are slated to begin concurrently at 10 a.m. at the Huntington Place in Detroit. 

Trump, Haley and Binkley were among six candidates who paid $20,000 to appear on the caucus ballots, a fee designed to cover costs of the convention. 

Voting will be limited to Michigan GOP precinct delegates (who won local elections in August 2022) elevated at Feb. 15 county conventions. State lawmakers can also participate as at-large delegates. 

At each congressional district caucus meeting, Republicans will decide how to allocate three presidential nominating delegates, for a total of 39. 


Under convention rules, the Michigan GOP state committee — a group of roughly 100 members — will then meet by 8:30 p.m. on March 2 to allocate presidential nominating delegates based on the results of that day’s caucus meeting and the Feb. 27 primary. 

Will anything else happen at the convention?

Michigan GOP activists will use the same district caucus process to elect two representatives to the Republican National Committee – one man and one woman. 

Incumbent Rob Steele is running against former gubernatorial candidate Ralph Rebandt. Kathy Berden is not seeking re-election and will be replaced by Hima Kolanagireddy, Linda Lee Tarver or Bernadette Smith.

It's unclear whether Michigan Republicans will take other action on March 2. 

It may depend on the ongoing leadership standoff between Karamo and Hoekstra. If Karamo is in charge, her allies have suggested they could try to force another vote to confirm her leadership. Her administration has also discussed possible creation of a new Michigan GOP “constitution.”

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