WASHINGTON, March 31, 2016 – Sen. Marco Rubio may have exited the presidential race, but he still wants a say in who wins the Republican nomination.
Despite previously saying he was shifting his focus to carrying out his duties as senator, Rubio recently sent letters to GOP officials requesting they not release his delegates until the convention in July.
That means those delegates Rubio won are not eligible to back other candidates, at least until the convention. If Rubio had released his delegates, they would be up for grabs by other candidates. Trump is trying to increase his delegate count to allow him to win the nomination in the first round of voting, avoiding a contested convention.
Rubio’s communications director Alex Burgos told MSNBC that Rubio wants to give voters the chance to stop Trump from winning the Republican nomination.
However, some are now speculating that Rubio’s letters suggest he is maneuvering to win a contested vote. Rubio, the GOP establishment favorite, could conceivably win a nomination if no single candidate reaches the delegate threshold.
A Republican candidate needs a total of 1,237 delegates to become the official nominee. Currently, Donald Trump has 736 delegates, Sen. Ted Cruz has 463 and Gov. John Kasich has 143. There are a total of 943 still up for grabs.
Rubio won 167 delegates as a presidential candidate, and dozens of them will be required to back him on the first ballot of the Republican National Convention, though the rules vary by state.
Bound delegates are required to vote for the candidate who won their state’s primary or caucus process when the nominating convention rolls around. So bound delegates that are assigned to Rubio will have to support Rubio at the Republican National Convention.
Unbound delegates represent the interests of the political parties. They are not required to cast ballots for the winners of their state votes. When presidential candidates suspend their campaigns, typically their delegates become free to support the candidate of their own choosing at the convention.
Trump is actively fighting to win over those unbound delegates. He opened a Washington D.C. campaign office that will focus strongly on the delegate count and house his congressional relations team.
With strife continuing to run deep in the Republican primary, the idea of a brokered convention is becoming closer to reality. A brokered convention occurs when no candidate has secured a majority of delegates after the party’s first vote for a presidential candidate at its national convention. In that case, the delegates become unbound., unleashing a series of deal-making and brokering to select the nominee.
The last time the Republicans had a brokered convention was in 1952, when Eisenhower became the eventual nominee. Abraham Lincoln also won the nomination as the result of a contested convention.
However, some warn that in this fractious environment, a contested convention could spark a third-party candidate. They warn that whoever does not win the nomination could break from the party and launch a rogue bid, essentially splitting the party and handing victory to the Democrats.
There is still time for negotiations among the candidates to end at least the overt animosity, bringing the party together for the general election. Negotiations over running mates, cabinet positions and other issues could still emerge and save the party from itself.
Once the dealings begin — whether before or after the convention starts — Marco Rubio and his 167 delegates could be well positioned to influence the next nominee.