Voters admit they don’t understand the way the Keystone State GOP chooses delegates
The campaigns seem adrift also in trying to explain a convoluted process
Which candidate do the people on the ballot favor? Voters left to guess
| April 23, 2016 | 12:31 PM
HARRISBURG, Pennsylvania: Mel Bingaman couldn’t be more excited to cast her vote for Donald Trump – “a real man of the people,” she says, when Pennsylvania and four other states hold primary elections on Tuesday.
But a reminder here at a raucous Trump rally to also notch her ballot for delegates who have committed to vote for her candidate at the Republican convention this summer left her baffled.
“I know I’m going to vote for Mr. Trump,” the Selinsgrove nurses aide said, emerging from the rally with a yard sign and a campaign button. “But I don’t know about this delegate business. Who am I supposed to vote for?”
With the possibility that the Republican presidential nomination won’t be wrapped up until the July convention, Pennsylvania and its unique method of picking delegates who will cast the actual votes at the convention could play a critical role and serve as a test case for Trump’s efforts to professionalize his campaign and nab delegates, not just the popular vote.
The top Republican vote-getter in Tuesday’s Pennsylvania primary wins just 17 statewide delegates. Three more delegates are allocated to state party leaders.
But the bulk of the state’s votes – 54 – go to delegates who are elected by congressional districts and are not obligated to be faithful to any candidate. And there will be no indication on the ballot whether or not they favor a particular candidate, though many have made their intentions known.
Trump supporters see the rules as another hurdle imposed by what they view as hostile Republican Party apparatchiks, though the process has been used for years. But this time the delegates are critical because Trump, despite winning more states than his rivals, is still short of the 1,237 delegates required to nab the nomination ahead of the convention.
I live in the 17th District, which means that there is one candidate pledged to Senator Cruz on the ballot, and I have a second Cruz delegate as a write-in possibility. But Pennsylvania Republicans get to select three delegates from each congressional district, and that means that even people who support Mr Cruz might well vote for a delegate who is going to support someone else. Me? I’ll cast ballots for only two delegates, and not give a Trump or Kasich delegate an extra vote.¹
But this exposes the obvious problem: in only four of Pennsylvania’s 18 congressional districts has the Cruz campaign fielded a full slate of pledged delegate candidates! In the 1st, 3rd, 7th and 14th districts there aren’t any pledged delegates for Mr Cruz, and two of those districts, the 3rd and 7th, are represented by Republicans. Pennsylvania’s most strongly Republican district,² the 10th, has exactly one pledged Cruz delegate candidate, and she is a write-in!
Count on it: there will be Cruz supporters voting for Trump-supporting delegates!³
I will be the first to admit it: I did not expect the nomination struggle to last as long as it has. I thought that the nomination would have been settled long before our April 26th primary. But Mr Cruz was the first candidate in the race, and his campaign had more time than anyone else’s to find and get potential delegates on the ballot, and the campaign just didn’t get the job done. Out of 54 potential slots, the Cruz campaign got only 24 potential delegates to file to get on the ballot. Maybe his “ground game” hasn’t been as good as advertised.
¹ – The First Street Journal has not actually endorsed Ted Cruz, because everyone my website endorses seems to lose!
² – Based on the Cook Partisan Voting Index
³ – In my district, there are 11 candidates on the ballot, four of whom are committed to Donald Trump, four committed to the “District Winner” on he first ballot, two “uncommitted,” and one committed to Ted Cruz. You can find a spreadsheet of all Pennsylvania delegate candidates here.
Cross-posted on The First Street Journal.