After thousands of votes and holding majority of delegates, Donald’s whole fate could rest solely on 200 people. What do you think will be the outcome?
West Virginia looks perfect for Donald Trump: a struggling working-class state filled with the types of voters who have backed him elsewhere and could deliver one of his biggest victories.
But a sweep there might not matter. That’s because as many as 34 delegates — the entire contingent — may be free to back whomever they want at the Republican National Convention.
Much the same is true in Pennsylvania, home to a hotly contested April 26 primary, where there are 54 uncommitted delegates. Other states and territories, from Colorado to Wyoming to Guam, will also send squads of unbound representatives.
These are the swing voters of the GOP nominating contest, nearly 200 activists and elected leaders beholden to nothing except their personal judgment and empowered to make or break candidacies.
If Trump arrives at the July convention in Cleveland just shy of the 1,237 delegates required to secure the nomination outright, these unbound delegates could decide to push him over the top — or force a contested convention with successive rounds of balloting.
“It’s the wildcatter of delegate selection,” said Ed Brookover, a senior adviser to Trump, who drew an analogy to risk-taking oilmen who drill in unexplored land.
The three remaining candidates are identifying these delegates, researching their proclivities and beginning to cajole them. The law surrounding them is so unclear that Trump could conceivably fly them to Florida for a weekend of luxuriating at Mar-a-Lago, his gold-adorned and palm-lined private club — where, naturally, they could be subjected to personal lobbying to support Trump.
Brookover did not rule out the Trump campaign entertaining delegates at one of Trump’s properties or paying for their travel costs to Cleveland. But he added: “You certainly can’t offer anything which would be considered a bribe. We can’t give them $100,000.”
Charlie Black, who is helping lead Ohio Gov. John Kasich’s delegate strategy, recalled working on Ronald Reagan’s insurgent campaign in 1976 and struggling to court delegates as industriously as then-President Gerald Ford.
“People got to stay at the White House, fly on Air Force One and meet Queen Elizabeth,” Black said.
Federal rules do not provide clear guidance about whether delegates can accept items of value from a campaign, other than reimbursement for their travel expenses. Campaign finance lawyers are divided over whether federal or state anti-bribery statutes would apply to delegates who are not elected officials — and if so, what kinds of perks or inducements could be illegal.