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There seems to be a greater focus with Republicans that Donald Trump will be their nominee heading into the 2020 general election to face off with whichever candidate wins the Democratic nomination. But maybe they're putting the cart before the horse.
There are multiple states that will not be holding primaries or caucuses next year, content to go the distance with Trump, although this is particularly upsetting to the GOP challengers. Additionally, there will be a Republican debate next week, and Trump isn't even bothering to show up.
Helping those challengers out, California passed legislation two months ago that requires presidential candidates to release five years of their tax returns by late November if they want to be on the primary ballot in March.
However, with primaries and caucuses not being held in some states, and with Trump carrying 88 percent of the support from Republican voters, that California law won't matter much to Trump and is not going to force him into releasing his tax returns, a fight he has kept up for the past three years.
What could matter a little more is the legislation that the New Jersey Senate just passed. They, too, are trying to pass a law preventing candidates from being on the ballot if they don't release their tax returns. However, their law will affect the general election.
The Democratic-led state Senate on Thursday passed legislation that requires presidential and vice presidential candidates to release five years of federal tax returns 50 days before the general election if they want to appear on the ballot.
This was a time-honored tradition until Trump broke with it in 2016. For nearly four decades, presidential candidates released their taxes, but Trump refused, claiming he was in the process of an audit. Three years later, he still has not released the returns.
This has turned into congressional action with the House Ways and Means Committee trying to force the Internal Revenue Service to release the tax returns. In turn, Trump filed a lawsuit asking for a temporary restraining order to keep his tax returns safe.
The New Jersey bill will move next to the Democrat-led Assembly, and if it passes, it will then land on the desk of Gov. Phil Murphy, a Democrat. Former Gov. Chris Christie, a Republican and Trump crony, vetoed the legislation two years ago.
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