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Why Rubio wants to keep his Minnesota delegates but take his name off the ballot in California

Hint: the reason starts with a T.

At the March 1 precinct caucus, the presidential preference poll allocated 17 delegate slots to Marco Rubio, 13 to Ted Cruz, and eight to Donald Trump.

The Minnesota Republican Party has received a letter from Marco Rubio asking that the state delegates he won at the presidential preference poll remain bound to him at the national convention.

Party chair Keith Downey replied back to the Rubio campaign that, in effect, the letter wasn’t necessary.  “These are not Rubio delegates that he can release or ask to support another candidate,” Downey said in an interview. “They are Minnesota delegates that are bound by the state rules requiring the national delegate slots to reflect the results of the preference poll.”

At the March 1 precinct caucus, the presidential preference poll allocated 17 delegate slots to Rubio, 13 to Ted Cruz, and eight to Donald Trump.

At the senate district conventions that are taking place now and the congressional district conventions in a few weeks, someone wanting a delegate slot must declare which candidate they support. They go on to the state convention in May, which will elect the final delegate group to the national convention in the same proportion.

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“When Minnesota goes to the national convention, we will have 17 delegates designated to vote  for Marco Rubio,” Downey said, “if Rubio is designated a candidate on the first round of balloting.”

That is a big if. Rubio may not meet some of RNC rules for a candidate’s name to be placed in nomination, specifically the rule that a candidate must have won the majority of delegates in at least eight states, which Rubio has not.

Rubio has sent similar letters to party chairs in other states where he’s won delegates, asking the delegates to remain bound to him.

“You could speculate on why,” Downey said. “Perhaps he’s trying to retain influence or he might anticipate that the convention rules might change.  There’s just a lot of things.”

Including an attempt by Rubio to keep Donald Trump from reaching the 1,237 delegates he needs to be the party nominee.

That may be the motive behind Rubio’s request that his name be removed from the June 7 California primary ballot.

It seems contradictory that Rubio would press to keep delegates he’s already won but drop out of a major primary race like California, unless the intent is to move some voters to Ted Cruz or John Kasich.

It’s all part of the machinations that could lead to high drama on the national convention floor in July in Cleveland and that keep states like Minnesota, even with relatively few delegates, players in the nomination race.

It’s also confusing and arcane, even to political professionals. “I have never had more calls than in the last three weeks about this behind the curtain stuff, this political minutia that is now so critical to electing the next leader of the free world,” Downey said.