Election 2020

Rubio Moves to Keep Delegates in Order to Stop Trump

Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) waves to supporters at a campaign rally March 1, 2016, in Andover, Minn. (AP Photo/Jim Mone)

Marco Rubio, who dropped out of the presidential race in March, is making moves to prevent Donald Trump from getting the 1,237 delegates needed to win the Republican nomination. He has requested that the delegates he won in earlier races continue to be bound to him, and that his name be removed from the ballot in California, a state which votes in June.

Rubio wrote a letter to the state Republican parties in each of the 21 states in which he won delegates, instructing them not to free up the representatives.

I write this letter to inform you that the decision to suspend my campaign for President of the United States is not intended to release any National Convention Delegates bound to me as a result of the 2016 delegate selection process that took place in your State. It is my desire at this time that the delegates allocated to me by your rules remain bound to vote for me on at least the first nominating ballot at the National Convention.

Rubio has won 171 delegates, and after his withdrawal from the race, it would be standard practice to re-allocate those delegates to other candidates who remain in the race. With Donald Trump almost on track to win all 1,237 delegates required to win the nomination, however, Rubio has made this unconventional suggestion, and it seems many states will accept his wishes.

Rubio spokesman Alex Burgos made it explicit that this decision is intended to thwart the frontrunner. “Of course, he’s no longer a candidate and wants to give voters a chance to stop Trump,” Burgos said in an email.

Peter Goldberg, chairman of the Alaska Republican Party, accepted Rubio’s request after consulting with the Republican National Committee and its chairman, Reince Priebus. “We treated the Marco Rubio campaign in the same manner we treated all other campaigns that suspended,” Goldberg said. With Rubio’s delegates shifted, Cruz and Trump would have split them and had an equal number of delegates from Alaska. Due to Rubio’s decision, Trump will lose three delegates and Cruz will lose two, leaving the Texas senator with a small lead of 13 to 12.

The decision does not only hurt Trump, however. The Wall Street Journal reported that Cruz would pick up 5 of the unpledged delegates in Louisiana, in addition to the 5 delegates allocated to Rubio. If Louisiana also honors Rubio’s request, that would cost Cruz 5 delegates. The unpledged representatives could still choose to back Cruz, however, giving the Texas senator 5 more delegates than the media mogul, despite Trump winning in the state. Trump has threatened to sue over this “unfair” situation, although it is completely in accord with the rules.

Next Page: Rubio Is Also Working to Stop Trump in California

Marco Rubio has also made a move in California, asking the state to remove his name from the ballot for the state’s primary on June 7. The Florida senator’s name remained on the ballot in the Arizona primary, and he came in third with 15 percent of the vote — 5 points ahead of John Kasich. Arizona was a winner-take-all state, so he did not win any delegates, and Cruz did not receive enough votes for Rubio’s support to have pushed him ahead of Trump.

In upcoming states, however, Rubio could prove a “spoiler” for Cruz, keeping the Texas senator from defeating Trump.

Polls for California suggest Rubio’s absence on the ballot would be a boon for Cruz. Trump still leads the RealClearPolitics average for the state, but in polls taken after Rubio dropped out, Cruz’s vote percentage has rapidly increased. With Rubio in the race, Trump received 38 percent of the vote to Cruz’s 22 percent, and Rubio took 10 percent. In the most recent poll, however, Trump stands at 36 percent, with Cruz right on his heels at 35 percent. California awards 172 delegates, so it might make or break Trump’s sprint to the finish.

Trump currently has 736 delegates, with Cruz at 463 and Kasich at 143. Cruz needs to win almost every state going forward and rack up 80 percent of the remaining delegates in order to win the race, while even Trump needs over half of the remainder. With Rubio’s delegates not up for grabs, it becomes harder for either of them to clinch the nomination before the July convention in Cleveland, Ohio.



Rubio might be positioning himself to be a kingmaker at the convention, directing his 171 delegates toward a candidate of his choosing. He also might make the difference to keep Trump from winning. In FiveThirtyEight’s projection, Trump is likely to win 1,208 delegates before the convention, forcing him to find 29 unpledged delegates to woo to his cause before the convention.

Trump has hired an old political hand (with experience supporting Putin’s pal in the Ukraine) to woo delegates and plan his steps at the convention, while both Cruz and Kasich have taken steps to pick up unpledged delegates. All three are gearing up to fight it out down to the wire.