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How the GOP presidential scrum — and new delegate rules — could make Minnesota matter in a nomination fight

Thanks to the GOP’s complex rules for securing the nomination, candidates like Ted Cruz are sending surrogates to Minnesota to lay the groundwork with Republican activists.

Rafael Cruz, father of Sen. Ted Cruz, speaking on behalf of his son at the Southern Republican Leadership Conference in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma in May.
REUTERS/Rick Wilking

On October 12, Rafael Cruz, the father and chief surrogate of Republican presidential candidate Ted Cruz, will be in Minnesota. He’ll talk to members of the Freedom Club, address a public event in Woodbury, and do a round of media interviews.  

Why devote so much time in a state where activists have shown little interest in Cruz?

Janet Biehoffer, the national committeewoman of the Minnesota Republican Party, says that GOP presidential candidates are reconsidering courting states like Minnesota thanks to the new rules regarding how delegates will be bound to candidates at the Republican National Convention next July.

According to those new rules: based on the results of primaries and caucuses, all delegates are bound to their candidates through the first floor ballot in Cleveland — as long as the candidate remains in the race.

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“However, if no presidential candidate has enough votes to win on the first ballot, as of the second ballot, every Minnesota national delegate’s vote [along with all other delegates’ votes] will be up for grabs,” Biehoffer explained. “Thus laying the groundwork in Minnesota is a wise move for presidential candidates.”

Minnesota will send 38 delegates to the Republican Party national convention next July in Cleveland. Each of the state’s congressional districts elects three delegates.  Eleven delegates are elected at the state GOP convention in May, and the party’s three Republican National Committee members — Biehoffer, Chris Tiedeman, and party chair Keith Downey — are automatic delegates.

The delegates will be bound proportionately by the results of a poll taken at the March 1 precinct caucuses.  The proportionality will be determined by the percentages that a candidate receives, provided he or she receives a minimum of 10 percent.  

Confusing? Yes it is, acknowledges Biehoffer, which is why she has been conferring regularly with RNC attorneys and educating activists and congressional district leaders on the process. “But, it opens the door to a lot of possibilities,” she said. 

Biehoffer thinks that Republicans will know whether a candidate has enough first ballot delegates to get the nomination by mid-April, after the states have held their primaries and caucuses.

If there is no clear first-ballot winner, the likelihood grows that Minnesotans will have actual face time with more candidates. Or at least their surrogates.