So, the eventual Republican nominee needs 1,237 delegates to secure the party’s nomination before its July convention.
If that doesn’t happen, then it creates a potential opening for another nominee as the delegates vote on the convention floor.
The Republican Party of each state has its own rules about whether and/or when a delegate is bound to the results of the primary votes. So, if you are a delegate from a district where Ted Cruz won, you are bound to him when it comes time to vote for the nominee.
But for how long?
One can easily imagine a situation where no candidate wins (i.e., gets a majority) on the first vote, or even the second vote. Once a delegate becomes “unbound”, he or she can vote for whomever he or she wants.
Well, who are these delegates? How does one get to be a delegate?
As you might expect, it depends on the state. But there are certain things we can say:
(1) The three members of the Republican National Committee from each state and territory, the national committeeman, the national committeewoman and the state chairman are automatically selected as delegates. These people account for 7% of all the 2472 total GOP delegates.
(2) In seven states, including Ohio and California, winning candidates submit their own slate, or list, of representatives. These people account for 14% of all the 2472 total GOP delegates. Obviously, a winning candidate will choose a delegate who will not waver, even if “unbound”.
(3) The rest of the delegates are chosen primarily by vote at state or district conventions and meetings, a majority of which are held in April and May. (The North Carolina convention is in Greensboro on May 5-8. And yeah, you can become a delegate if you are so inclined).
What is this eight-state rule?
It’s another fly in the ointment. Apart from winning a majority of delegates, the GOP rules say that a candidate is required to win more than 50 percent of delegates in at least eight states to secure the nomination. Trump has already done so in five.
However, this rule, or any other, could be changed before the voting begins, putting candidates who do not win a majority in eight states into contention.