The presidential preference poll at Minnesota’s March 2 precinct caucuses was supposed to determine how the state’s 38 delegates to the Republican National Convention would be allocated. With his win, Sen. Marco Rubio picked up 17 delegates, while Ted Cruz got 13, and Donald Trump 8.
But with the Rubio campaign suspension, several questions remain about what will eventually happen to the former candidate’s share of the delegates.
To understand, it’s better to consider the delegate as allocations rather than as individuals, since the actual delegates to the Republican National Convention haven’t been elected yet. That will happen in three stages: at state Senate district conventions, then congressional district conventions, and finally at the GOP state convention on May 21, where delegates will elect the 38 who go on to the national convention in Cleveland.
At this point there are no individuals bound to support Rubio because the delegates haven’t yet been chosen. “The reality is nobody is going to be elected a delegate who supports [Rubio],” said Hennepin County commissioner Jeff Johnson, former state party chair and current chair of Rubio’s Minnesota campaign. He added, “Unless Rubio re-enters the campaign, which he is not going to.”
As potential delegates make their way through the selection process, they are not required to declare their support for any candidate. “Everybody shows up and votes for whom they want,” Johnson said.
This system leaves ample opportunity for Cruz, Trump, and John Kasich teams to manuever for a bigger slice of the delegate pie.
It’s still unclear which candidate might emerge as the Rubio alternative. In a conference call with Minnesota supporters on Wednesday, Rubio did not give an explicit endorsement. “I don’t think there will be many Trump people,” said Johnson. “I would guess that more would go to Cruz than Kasich.”
The state party’s Republican National Committee members — Keith Downey, Chris Tiedeman, and Janet Beihoffer — later sent a memo to clarify further what a delegate must do to make it to the national convention.
He or she must “must run and be elected as a delegate for one candidate who earned Minnesota delegates as a result of the precinct caucus presidential preference vote.” Then, at the national convention, “delegates are bound to vote for the candidate whose delegate slot they hold if that candidate is on the first ballot; otherwise they are unbound and may vote for any candidate on the convention ballot.”
Rubio has collected 164 delegates nationwide, a small number that nonetheless could be significant in the race to secure the necessary 1,237 delegates necessary to secure the Republican nomination on the first ballot. Trump now has 673 delegates, Cruz has 411, and Kasich has 143.
Johnson is one of the many Republican activists who believe the nominee could be undetermined at the opening of the national convention in July, leading to a potentially explosive intersection of rule changes, multiple ballots, and old-fashioned convention floor hustling. “It could be interesting and ugly,” he said. “And fun.”