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The GOP primary campaign could be over just as Trump's trials are getting underway

March is shaping up to be a big month for the Republican presidential field.

It's when the GOP nominee will be essentially locked down in terms of delegate votes — according to a Republican National Committee planning document released this week — just as the first criminal case against former President Donald Trump is getting underway.

That means the primary campaign could basically be over before Trump's trials are in full swing.

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After Super Tuesday — March 5 — Republicans will have allocated almost half of their delegates, as there will be 16 contests that day.

A week later, 54% of delegates will be set and, by the end of the month, 71%.

Trump's federal trial for attempting to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election is set to begin March 4, the day before Super Tuesday, after a judge rejected the defense's request this year to delay the case to 2026.

The trial's outcome and timeline are also notable because almost half of Republican voters have said they wouldn't support the former president if he is convicted of a felony, according to an August Reuters/Ipsos poll.

But this primary calendar means there won't be a verdict in any of the multiple cases against Trump before the nominee is essentially decided.

In total, Trump faces four scheduled criminal trials, including a criminal trial in Georgia that prosecutors have proposed to begin on Aug. 5 — just weeks after the July 15-18 Republican National Convention.

As Trump maintains a commanding lead in polls over the Republican field so far, his opponents are going to need to gain momentum quickly in some of the earliest contests — Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina. Iowa votes on Jan. 15, just 44 days from now.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis has gone all in on Iowa, and support has been growing for former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley among voters in New Hampshire. The two states account for only about 3% of the total delegates, but candidates not named Trump need strong showings in them for the momentum they can provide — or else the campaign may be over quickly.

Here's the full RNC lineup for its contests in 2024:

Copyright 2023 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

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Jeongyoon Han