AP Decision Notes: What to expect in the District of Columbia’s GOP presidential primary

Feb 28, 2024, 5:25 AM

American and District of Columbia flags fly outside of the Madison Hotel on Feb. 26, 2024, in Washi...

American and District of Columbia flags fly outside of the Madison Hotel on Feb. 26, 2024, in Washington. Former President Donald Trump and former United Nations Ambassador Nikki Haley lead the field of candidates competing in the District of Columbia’s Republican presidential primary, which will be held Friday through Sunday. (AP Photo/Mark Schiefelbein)

(AP Photo/Mark Schiefelbein)

WASHINGTON (AP) — Republicans in the nation’s capital will gather in a hotel this weekend and cast their ballots for the GOP presidential candidate they would like to see occupy the White House.

The contest may be the best chance for former U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley to score a victory in a presidential nomination contest. She and former President Donald Trump, who has won every contest so far, headline the field of candidates competing in the District of Columbia’s Republican presidential primary, which will be held Friday through Sunday.

The event takes place in the run-up to Super Tuesday, when 15 states will hold Republican presidential contests on March 5, the most of any day on the primary calendar.

At stake in Washington are the city’s 19 delegates to this summer’s Republican National Convention, where the party’s nominee will officially be crowned. Haley, a former South Carolina governor, pledged to remain in the race after losing her home-state primary last Saturday.

This Friday, the first day of voting in the District of Columbia, Haley will hold an event with the D.C. Republican Party at the primary’s lone polling location, a hotel in the heart of downtown. The party says she is the sixth GOP presidential hopeful it has hosted this campaign season.

Trump won an uncontested D.C. primary during his 2020 reelection bid but placed a distant third four years earlier behind Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida and former Ohio Gov. John Kasich. Rubio’s win was one of only three in his unsuccessful 2016 bid. Mitt Romney and John McCain won the city’s primaries in 2012 and 2008 on their way to winning the GOP nomination.

The district’s party-run Republican presidential contests tend to have a looser, more festive atmosphere than the typically staid environment of a state- or city-run election, where electioneering is banned within a certain distance from the polling site. At the 2016 vote, which was held in conjunction with the local party’s convention, voters faced long lines but were able to pass the time browsing tables of political and campaign merchandise before casting their ballots.

Washington is one of the most heavily Democratic jurisdictions in the nation. Democrat Joe Biden won the district in the 2020 general election with 92% of the vote.

A look at what to expect on election night:


The party-run Republican presidential primary will be held over three days, starting Friday and concluding Sunday. Voting concludes Sunday at 7 p.m.


In addition to Haley and Trump, the candidates on the ballot are Florida businessman David Stuckenberg and former candidates Ryan Binkley, Doug Burgum, Chris Christie, Ron DeSantis and Vivek Ramaswamy.


Only voters registered in the district as Republicans may participate in the primary. The deadline to register was Feb. 16.


All of Washington’s 19 GOP delegates will be awarded to the candidate who receives more than 50% of the primary vote. If no candidate wins a vote majority, delegates will be allocated in proportion to the overall primary vote. Candidates must receive at least 15% of the vote to qualify for delegates.


The state party is expected to announce the final vote results and the winner of the primary within an hour or so of polls closing on Sunday night. The Associated Press’ winner call will be based on the state party’s announcement. Unlike other elections, there will not be partial vote results to analyze over the course of the night.


As of Jan. 31, there were about 23,000 registered Republicans in the city. Turnout in most of the district’s Republican primaries tends to be relatively low. At the party’s 2016 presidential vote, slightly more than 2,800 votes were cast. About 5,100 votes were cast in the 2012 primary and 6,200 in the 2008 primary.

Early voting is not permitted in the primary. Absentee voting is also not permitted, except for military and overseas voters. The state party says only two voters requested a military or overseas mail ballot in the 2016 primary.


There is only one polling location in the primary, the Madison Hotel. The state party is expected to announce a final result within an hour or so after voting concludes.


As of Sunday, there will be 134 days until the Republican National Convention in Milwaukee and 247 until the November general election.

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AP Decision Notes: What to expect in the District of Columbia’s GOP presidential primary