Trump’s announcement that he no longer stands by a pledge to support the GOP has thrown his hold on South Carolina’s 50 delegates in doubt. The Palmetto State was one of several that required candidates to pledge their loyalty to the party’s eventual nominee in order to secure a slot on the primary ballot. Though Trump won all of the state’s delegates in the Feb. 20 primary, anti-Trump forces are plotting to contest their binding to Trump because of his threat on the pledge Tuesday. The loyalty pledge is nothing new in South Carolina, where it has been required for decades, but took on new focus in light of Trump’s public musings about a third-party run or withdrawing his support from the eventual nominee if he is stopped at a contested convention.
Donald Trump may have come in second in the Iowa caucuses, but the presidential candidate scored a victory in Virginia on Thursday when the state Board of Elections formalized the state GOP’s plans to scrap the loyalty pledge. The board repealed the party’s earlier decision to have voters who want to participate in the March 1 GOP presidential primary sign a statement affirming they were Republicans. Elections officials say the party bowed to pressure from Trump and voters upset by the pledge; the party says it objected to the wording of the statement. Trump put the issue on the national radar in December when he publicly rebuked the state Republican Party on Twitter for making what he called a “suicidal mistake” in requiring the pledge. Some feared the pledge could have put off voters disenchanted with party politics who are attracted to Trump’s unorthodox candidacy. Activists responded, calling on the party to rescind the pledge in blog posts, letters and an unsuccessful federal lawsuit. On Saturday, the state party held a special meeting, where the governing board reversed its earlier decision to institute the pledge, and unanimously called for its repeal.
Virginia: State spent more than $62,000 on voting oath Republicans now want scrapped | Richmond Times-Dispatch
The Virginia Department of Elections spent more than $62,000 to print and mail the controversial loyalty oath requested by the Republican Party of Virginia, according to a state official. At nearly $53,000, the largest expense was printing the nearly 3 million forms containing the so-called statement of affiliation, which could be shelved for the March 1 primary after a Republican party committee voted over the weekend to ask the state not to implement the oath. The State Board of Elections has called a special meeting for Thursday morning to discuss the Republicans’ request to stop the oath.
Virginia: GOP drops plan for loyalty pledge, but maybe too late for some voters | The Washington Post
Virginia’s Republican Party on Saturday scrapped plans to use a party loyalty pledge in the March 1 GOP presidential primary, sending elections officials scrambling because absentee voting was already underway. “We unanimously voted to rescind it,” John Whitbeck, chairman of the Republican Party of Virginia, said after a meeting of the State Central Committee. In September, the party decided to require voters to sign a “statement of intent” before taking part in the primary. That idea, which has been proposed several times in recent years, caused controversy in Virginia, one of about 14 states that hold “open primary” elections in which voters do not register by party. Supporters have said that the measure would cut down on Democrats who want to make mischief by voting in GOP primaries.
Donald Trump supporters have lost the first round in their battle to prevent the Republican Party from requiring voters to sign a statement of GOP affiliation before casting ballots in Virginia’s presidential primary. U.S. District Judge Hannah M. Lauck refused Thursday to issue a preliminary injunction blocking the plan, clearing the way for Virginia election officials to finish mailing absentee ballots by Saturday’s deadline. As it now stands, Virginians voting in person in the March 1 GOP primary also will have to complete a form stating: “My signature below indicates that I am a Republican.” Three black pastors who support Trump claim in a lawsuit that the “loyalty oath” violates their civil and free-speech rights. Those claims remain to be decided, although time is running short. No trial date has been scheduled.
Virginia: Judge denies preliminary injunction to block oath in March 1 GOP primary | Richmond Times-Dispatch
A federal judge in Richmond on Thursday denied a motion by supporters of Donald Trump for a preliminary injunction to block the so-called statement of affiliation in Virginia’s March 1 Republican presidential primary. Later Thursday, the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals denied an emergency motion, filed by the three black pastors who brought the suit, seeking an injunction. The rulings mean that unless the plaintiffs win a reprieve in court, or state GOP officials reverse course, anyone who wants to vote in the Republican primary must sign a statement that says: “My signature below indicates that I am a Republican.”
National: With flourish, Trump rejects independent bid if he loses GOP nomination | Los Angeles Times
With his typical showmanship and a hint of the absurd, Donald Trump promised Thursday to forgo an independent bid for the White House if he loses his quest for the Republican nomination, a move that was aimed at easing worries of the party establishment but may only serve to boost his unpredictable, rogue campaign. Standing in the opulent and packed lobby of his Trump Tower in midtown Manhattan, Trump held up the document — which was mistakenly dated Aug. 3 instead of Sept. 3. — at a midday news conference and declared he was “pledging allegiance to the Republican Party and the conservative principles for which it stands.” … Republican Party officials circulated the 70-word pledge to all 17 GOP candidates this week, but the effort was aimed squarely at the one leading the pack in most polls. The billionaire celebrity was the only top-tier candidate who would not publicly promise to rule out an independent bid in the general election when he was asked to do so at the first primary debate last month.