MANCHESTER, N.H. (AP) — Republicans in Iowa and New Hampshire are vowing to hold a caucus and primary next year, even as party leaders in a handful of other states have canceled their contests to help smooth President Donald Trump's path to reelection.

The decision to cancel GOP contests in at least four states, South Carolina, Nevada, Arizona and Kansas, drew sharp criticism from a vocal minority of Republican operatives. One likened the move to something that would happen in Vladimir Putin's Russia.

At least three Republicans have stepped up to challenge Trump's claim to his party's 2020 presidential nomination. None of them is expected to generate enough support to defeat — or even embarrass — the incumbent president in the months leading up to the November 2020 general election.

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