S.C. ‘First in the South’ primary status safe — for now

The Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland is covered in signs in preparation for the upcoming Republican National Convention.

WASHINGTON — South Carolina will retain its No. 3 slot in the Republican presidential primary sequence in 2020 and also first in the South, at least for the time being.

During the Republican National Convention Rules Committee meeting in Cleveland late Thursday, the Palmetto State — along with Iowa, New Hampshire and Nevada — withstood efforts by representatives from other states to reconfigure the order in which states cast ballots in the primary election season.

The compromise reached Thursday — four days before the official kick-off of the convention — is that the Republican National Committee will sometime between now and the next general election form an advisory panel to continue the sequence conversation.

S.C. GOP Chairman Matt Moore, a member of the Rules Committee, along with S.C. national committeewoman Cindy Costa considered the development a kind of victory for the state’s “First in the South” status.

“Today’s vote is a very positive sign for South Carolina Republican presidential primaries,” Moore said in a statement. “We appreciate our fellow Rules Committee delegates recognizing the importance of the grassroots-driven primary process, and that changes to that process shouldn’t be made lightly.”

South Carolina is envied by other states that also want to enjoy the national spotlight, economic advantage and political influence in the presidential nomination process.

Earlier in the day, South Carolina was being used as a bargaining chip in another effort to quell discontent within the ranks. It started as RNC Chairman Reince Priebus tried to stave off a revolt among the delegates looking to change convention rules. Some wanted to keep Donald Trump from winning the nomination for president, so a suggestion was made that in exchange for good behavior, the Rules Committee should vote on “closing” all early primaries, meaning only registered Republicans could participate in the process.

This arrangement in theory wouldn’t have bothered Moore, who told The Post and Courier the state party has been trying for years to close its primary without success. But he opposed efforts to litigate the issue on the national party level.

“Grassroots conservatives should be concerned about the national party dictating to states and undercutting their authority,” he said. “It might not help those grassroots conservatives in the future.”

Ultimately, the trade-off was not agreed to, and anti-Trump attempts to allow delegates to vote on the convention floor for whichever presidential candidate they pleased were not successful.

Emma Dumain is The Post and Courier’s Washington correspondent.