As Marco Rubio bowed out of the presidential race, I couldn’t help but wonder what would happen to his delegates – and the delegates won by other ex-candidates. Turns out, it varies by state: some delegates will be automatically attached to the first ballot; others are bound for two rounds of voting; still others have different rules.
But there’s enough wiggle room that those abandoned delegates just might end up making a difference come July.
“An unbound delegate is worth their weight in gold,” says strategist Rick Wilson. “It’s hard to speculate and there’s a lot going on right now.” There are plenty of unbound delegates to go around. Carly Fiorina, Mike Huckabee, and Rand Paul each left 1 delegate behind; Jeb Bush dropped 4; Ben Carson left 8; and Marco Rubio now leaves behind 169 ‘zombie delegates.’
This number will only increase if John Kasich or Ted Cruz drops out before the convention in Cleveland. And let’s not forget about the 112 unbound delegates from states and territories that do not hold primaries.
If a close quarters fight were to unfold in Cleveland, those unbound delegates could hold considerable sway. “You could have a situation where you have two or three candidates at the end of March all that have substantial blocs of delegates, but to get to 1,236, they are going to have to pick up some chunk of the uncommitted delegates,” says a veteran Republican operative.
Abandoned delegates will either become free agents doing as they please or prizes to be fought over by the candidates. Delegate Morton Blackwell from Virginia is preparing for such a scenario.
“Sometimes, folks trying to get someone’s vote try to put you in a very uncomfortable position,” he said to the Washington Examiner. “They get several of your friends and allies into a room and they’ll do what we call ‘hotbox’ you to put pressure on you to vote a certain way.”
The GOP Party has not met for a national nominating convention without a probable nominee since ’76, when Ronald Reagan challenged Gerald Ford in Kansas City. In that case, the unbound delegates secured the nomination for Ford.
The chances that we will see a contested RNC this year are increasing and there is already a bit of skuldugerry going on, as Ben Schreckinger writes in Politico:
Mysterious outside groups are asking state parties for personal data on potential delegates, Republican campaigns are drawing up plans to send loyal representatives to obscure local conventions, and party officials are dusting off rule books to brush up on a process that hasn’t mattered for decades…
Patronage and promises are likely to play a big role in wooing delegates. Will ambassadorships become a part of the trading as candidates compete in Cleveland this summer?
We have predicted Donald Trump will get the necessary 1,237 delegates for the nomination,but he does not have them yet. He currently has 661, followed by Cruz with 406 and Kasich with 142.