Most Of Marco Rubio’s Delegates Will Probably Still Have To Vote For Him

Rubio hadn't amassed enough delegates to substantially affect the race.

Now that Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) has suspended his campaign, the next question is what happens to the 163 delegates he had amassed in the contests prior to Tuesday night.

They don’t go away. Rubio can’t just redirect them to another candidate.

But there isn’t a simple answer. The Republican Party allows states to set their own rules for delegate allocation when a candidate quits, so there are a lot of scenarios for delegate reallocation.

Rubio’s delegates are from 19 states. In a great oversimplification, those 19 states can be divided into a few general categories of rules for delegate reallocation.

In more than half of these states, the delegates will have to vote for Rubio in the first ballot at the Republican convention in July. A few more states require the delegates to vote for Rubio in the second ballot as well. After that, the delegates are “unbound,” meaning they can vote for any remaining candidate. Some states allow delegates for dropped candidates to move to a presumptive nominee if there is one. But if no candidate has a delegate majority heading into the convention, 134 of Rubio’s delegates are bound to him for at least the first vote.

In three states where Rubio has won delegates, it’s unclear what will happen -- the state-level Republican parties didn’t set any rules for this scenario. That accounts for 20 of Rubio’s delegates.

And in three states, the delegates are released when the candidate drops out, and are free to vote for another candidate. Those states only account for nine of Rubio’s 163 delegates.

There are even more sets of rules in other states, so the delegates for any candidate who drops out later in the process will face an even more complex situation.

Given the varying rules and relatively low number of delegates affected, Rubio’s exit won’t substantially affect the race. Most of his delegates will remain stuck with the failed candidate.

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