The nomination process is a mess.
The party primary / caucus system has always been a mess, of course. In a nod to democracy, each party has a series of contests where some fraction of voters choose from whatever the current list of candidates are on a ballot. Certain states are allowed to be first. Some states don’t want to go through the trouble and expense, so they hold caucuses where secret ballots go out the window. Larger states go after smaller states.
Each party also puts their thumb on the scale. Democrats allocated a large number of super delegates who can support any candidate and can change their mind at any time before the convention. Those were created after 1968 when voters picked an undesirable candidate. In 2008, they even manipulated delegate counts in certain states based on changes in their primary schedules. Republicans decided that in 2016, late primaries would be winner-take-all so that any front runner could finish up the contest well before the convention.
Donald Trump is a rare candidate who is both unexpected and runs the table for the bulk of the nomination season. Trump has also benefited from open primaries. In those contests, independent voters can choose the party’s primary they want to vote in on primary day. In other contests, they can change party affiliation within days of voting. The advantage is that non-Republicans can have a voice in selecting a potential general election candidate. The disadvantage is that affiliation may not have anything to do with the party’s platform.
I am almost certain that 2020 will be the year Republicans create their own super delegates, regardless of the outcome this year. I think any political party has the right to choose their nominee at the top levels. However, they chose to grant authority to voters to form that decision. They allowed the states to create their own primary rules in some cases.
The Democrats threw out the rules in 2008 and won the election. Can Republicans do the same?