Editor’s note: this post has been updated to add information and clarify the column.
Sen. Marco Rubio’s decision to suspend his campaign for president Tuesday could actually make his caucus win in Minnesota more interesting, and more relevant, to the GOP nominating process.
With Rubio out, the 17 delegates that Rubio won on March 2 will be “unbound,” free to throw their support to another candidate, assuming that Rubio officially ends his campaign and releases them.
There’s plenty of time for that to happen. The presidential preference poll conducted at Minnesota’s March 2 caucuses allotted 17 delegates to Rubio, 13 to Ted Cruz and 8 to Donald Trump. The first round of delegate elections takes place at the congressional district conventions in April and early May, then gets winnowed to 38 delegates elected at the state Republican convention May 21.
In the interim, teams for Cruz and Trump will be maneuvering to woo those delegates to their side. “There will be a lot of action at the congressional district and state conventions,” where delegates are selected for the Republican National Convention, said GOP party chair Keith Downey.
Downey said he believed the suspense of who gets the GOP nomination could last until the RNC in Cleveland in July. “Even with Trump’s wins on Tuesday, he would have to win half of the delegates still to be elected from other states. There’s a greater chance after tonight that the convention will determine who the nominee is.”
But Downey dismissed the suggestion of an brokered convention. “That suggests some smoke-filled back room where the so-called establishment selects a nominee, maybe someone who wasn’t even candidate,” he said. “That will not happen. The convention is for the delegates, run by the delegates.”
And every delegate counts if the nomination is still open then – if no candidate has secured the 1,237 delegates needed to win.
Downey admits he was concerned that had any candidate locked up the nomination early, the state convention would be of little interest. He needn’t have worried. “Now it will be one of the most hotly contested conventions ever,” he said.