NBC: Cruz campaign expects to take more than half of Pennsylvania's 71 delegates even if he finishes third

Via RCP, recall that Pennsylvania has a quirky system. Unlike in Colorado, Republicans there do vote in a primary, but the outcome of the primary only binds a small segment of the state’s 71 delegates. More than 50 are completely unbound, free to vote for whichever candidate they prefer at the convention. Many would-be delegates have said they’ll honor the primary results by supporting the winner, but there’s nothing forcing them to do that. They could change their minds at any time.

So here’s the flip side to Rush’s point yesterday: Is it fair for Cruz to win half of Pennsylvania’s delegates when, according to the polls, he’s on track to win about a quarter of the state popular vote? Is it more or less fair for Trump to win 90 percent of New York’s delegates when he’s on track to win 50 percent of the state popular vote? If you want a less “rigged” primary system, simply convince the states to award delegates on a basis that’s strictly proportional to each candidate’s share at the ballot box. Cruz would have to make do with a quarter of the delegates in PA, and Trump would have to make do with half in NY. Except … Cruz would still win that race handily because he’d still be running laps around Trump in organizing delegates to vote for him on the second ballot in Cleveland. Better to keep the rigged system we have now — which is rigged to benefit statewide and district winners, and deliberately so — than move to a fairer system if you’re a Trump fan, no?

His supporters in Pennsylvania are begging him to get his act together and stop Cruz from vacuuming up even more delegates:

Mr. Trump leads polling in Pennsylvania, but with most of the state’s convention delegates elected directly by Republican voters, the billionaire businessman’s backers say they wish he were doing more to reach out to the people running for those slots and support their efforts.

“The campaign has not been effective in engaging the delegates,” said Gabriel Keller, a candidate for delegate in the 12th Congressional District. “We have decided to move forward with or without the campaign. We are going to get Donald Trump the Pennsylvania delegates. It is not going to be the campaign, and our goal is to get 45 of the 54 [unbound delegates.]”…

Mr. Keller said he is trying to get out the word that he will be a vote for Mr. Trump and set up a “Delegates for Trump” webpage that lists more than 40 others who are pledged to Mr. Trump.

The 38-year-old said he sought the campaign’s help but got nothing — not even a “Make America Great Again” hat.

Keller’s shooting for 45 of Pennsylvania’s 54 delegate slots for Trump, but as you’ll see, Team Cruz is telling reporters that they expect to win half of those delegates or better. In fact, if Cruz fulfills that expectation, it’s arguably Kasich who’ll have more right to complain than Trump. Assuming Trump wins half of the 54 unbound delegates, he’ll have performed approximately as well with them as he’s expected to do in the popular vote. (Better, actually. Right now he’s pulling 44.8 percent in RCP’s poll average of Pennsylvania. If he wins the state and takes the 17 delegates who are bound by the primary results plus half of the remaining 54 unbound delegates, he’ll have 44 delegates. That’s 62 percent of the state’s total delegate pool. A 62 percent return on 44.8 percent of the vote is a nice return. Unfair, arguably, but nice!) Kasich, meanwhile, would be at risk of being shut out in delegates even though he may finish second if Cruz succeeds in wooing the other half of the unbound delegates. Essentially, Cruz will have gobbled up Kasich’s “share.” So expect a little “rigged system” whining from Team Kasich soon too, unless his supporters in Pennsylvania decide to abandon him at the last second and unite behind Cruz as the lone remaining threat to stop Trump. That happened to some degree in Wisconsin, with Cruz outperforming his polls on election night. He needs it to keep happening, especially in Indiana and California.

Incidentally, don’t look now but Trump’s lead in Pennsylvania has ballooned quite a bit over the past three weeks. Of the last four polls taken before the second week of April, three had Cruz or Kasich within single digits of Trump. Since then: Trump by 26, 15, 16, and 20. Cruz in particular has lost five points off his polling average in just the past 11 days, although I think that may be due less to him “fading” then him having received a little bounce after winning Wisconsin. (He was polling at 26 percent before WI, then ticked upward after his win, and is at 24 percent now.) Wouldn’t surprise me if Trump inches up towards 50 percent in PA after tonight’s victory in New York. Exit question: Anyone want to explain to Trump’s son Donald Jr that most of the delegates this summer won’t be establishment fatcats who’ve been “wined and dined” for their vote but rather will be conservative ideologues who’ve been active in the party? Cruz’s delegates are the sort of people who took over the Utah state convention in 2010, at the beginning of the tea party era, and bounced Bob Bennett from the Senate in favor of Mike Lee. They’re not looking for something nice from Trump wineries; they’re looking for Trump to stop giving duh-uh-uh answers when he’s asked about abortion. That’s why Manafort’s going to have trouble flipping Cruz’s delegates. If it were a simple matter of wining and dining people, Trump would be a lock.

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John Sexton 10:00 PM on June 02, 2023