The three men officially challenging President Donald Trump for the Republican presidential nomination in the 2020 election published a co-written op-ed criticizing state Republican parties for canceling primaries, calling it a "disgrace."
Former Illinois Rep. Joe Walsh, former Massachusetts Gov. Bill Weld, and former South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford wrote for the Washington Post that the GOP has taken a "wrong turn" under President Trump, and a fair primary in every state is important to allow other candidates to make their cases to voters.
The candidates claimed that, under President Trump, the Republican Party has neglected principles of fiscal and personal responsibility and rule of law in favor of "alienating our allies while embracing terrorists and dictators, attacking the free press and pitting everyday Americans against one another."
The Republican parties in Arizona, Kansas, Nevada, and South Carolina have cancelled their primaries and will automatically declare President Trump the winner of the states' delegates.
"What does this say about the Republican Party?" they wrote. "If a party stands for nothing but reelection, it indeed stands for nothing. Our next nominee must compete in the marketplace of ideas, values and leadership."
It is widely understood that none of the three challengers to the president has a legitimate chance of winning the nomination, but the challengers fear that without a real primary, the Democratic Party will dominate the national discussion for the months leading up to the general election.
"It would be a critical mistake to allow the Democratic Party to dominate the national conversation during primary and caucus season," the op-ed read. "Millions of voters looking for a conservative alternative to the status quo deserve a chance to hear alternate ideas aired on the national stage."
Weld, who ran in 2016 as Libertarian candidate Gary Johnson's running mate, said he is running in 2020 to attract more people to vote in the Republican primary, including Democrats, and to highlight issues of fiscal responsibility and climate change, which he says appeal to millennials. He is pro-choice and pro-LGBTQ rights.
Sanford is running to highlight fiscal issues as well as challenge President Trump's "protectionist" trade policies. Sanford may be best known for disappearing to Argentina for days to visit his mistress in 2009, when he was married and the governor of South Carolina.
A recent Hill-HarrisX poll showed that President Trump holds an 83 percent approval rating among Republican voters, and a 47 percent approval rating overall.