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Mass. GOP Selecting National Convention Delegates

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The presidential primaries in Massachusetts may have wrapped up more than a month ago, but state Republicans still have a role to play in how the commonwealth will factor into choosing the GOP nominee.State GOP leaders held a conference call Thursday to outline Saturday’s caucuses that will choose delegates for the Republican National Convention in July. Each congressional district will host a caucus, nine in all. A total of 27 delegates will be elected Saturday to represent Massachusetts Republicans at the National Convention in Cleveland. The state GOP has 42 delegates to give. Another 12 are to be chosen by the state GOP committee in May and three more are members of the Republican National Committee from Massachusetts. State GOP Chair Kirsten Hughes detailed how many delegates are going to each candidate based on the March 1 primary, which frontrunner Donald Trump claimed with 49 percent.

“Which led to the following allocation: 22 for Donald Trump, eight for John Kasich, eight Marco Rubio and four Ted Cruz,” explained Hughes.

Although Marco Rubio has suspended his campaign, he still carries the delegates he earned, since the Florida U.S. Senator has not officially withdrawn.

There are two scenarios for the National Convention – either one candidate amasses at least 1,237 delegates through the nationwide primary and caucus process and becomes the presumptive nominee, or an open convention will be held. The RNC details this process in a video posted on its convention website.

“The goal here is still to reach 1,237 delegates,” says RNC Chief Operating Officer Sean Cairncross in the video. “Being open means that no candidate has won a majority of delegates through the primary and caucuses so the candidates will try to win a majority at the convention and it could take more than one ballot. And who votes on these ballots? Delegates do.”

So for Massachusetts and other states this is where it would get interesting. The commonwealth’s Republican delegates are bound to their respective candidate, based on the primary results, but for the first ballot only. After that it’s up to each individual delegate to decide who they want to vote for. As one of the RNC members from Massachusetts, Hughes is currently bound to Rubio, but is undecided about who she would vote for if given the chance.

“It’s a tough choice,” Hughes said. “I’m undecided at this point. I do wonder if it will go to a second ballot. States which maybe in the past haven’t been important – each state is so important in this primary season. I’m going to wait and see what happens at the end of this, but we’ll see.”

The Associated Press estimates Donald Trump has 992 delegates with U.S. Senator Ted Cruz in second carrying 562. There are 578 delegates remaining in the primary season. National Committeewoman Chanel Prunier is bound to Cruz on the first ballot.

“I will be voting for Ted Cruz on second ballot and subsequent ballots,” said Prunier.

The state GOP says the nine caucus locations can each fit more than 300 people. Pre-registration numbers as of Thursday show turnout at half or two-thirds. Only people registered as Republicans by February 10 can take part Saturday. Prior to that date, Massachusetts GOP communications director Terry MacCormack says there was a boost in party registration.

“There was a really significant move,” MacCormack said. “I believe we saw 5,000 registered Democrats bolt I think directly to the Republican Party and another 15,000 become ‘unenrolled’ certainly with, from what we can tell, the intention to participate in the Republican primary which I think speaks to the excitement that’s going on on our side.”

Data from the Massachusetts Secretary of State’s office shows Republican enrollment was slightly below 11 percent as of February 10. In 2012, the last time there was a presidential election featuring Republican nominee and former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney, a little more than 11 percent of state voters were registered Republicans. Romney has been vocal about his distaste of Trump becoming the Republican nominee.

Jim is WAMC’s Associate News Director and hosts WAMC's flagship news programs: Midday Magazine, Northeast Report and Northeast Report Late Edition. Email: jlevulis@wamc.org
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