In addition to its three national party representatives, each state is awarded 10 delegates, plus three for each congressional district.
After a month of intense voting, the calendar slows with just 134 delegates bound over the course of a month.
This could sap candidates’ momentum, either elongating a close race for the nomination or forcing underperforming and underfunded candidates from the race before the home stretch.
Each state party sets its own rules in consultation with the Republican National Committee. Additionally, more states moved their primaries and caucuses into early March in an effort to play a more significant role in the nominating process, and thereby receive more attention from candidates. Senior RNC officials will only say they predict the race being decided sometime in the spring, but many Republican operatives believe that a nominee won’t be determined until May or perhaps later. If no candidate secures the required number of delegates by the first ballot in Cleveland (through a combination of bound and unbound delegates), all bets are off, as most states release their pledged delegates at that point. A bound delegate is a person whose vote will be counted for the candidate they are pledged to regardless of what they actually do at the convention. The Four Early States: Also known as the ‘SEC Primary,’ more delegates are bound on this day than any other in the primary race, all by some form of proportional allocation.** Many of the states are deeply conservative, and are being eyed by candidates appealing to such voters as an opportunity to build momentum.
But all states voting before March 15 must award their delegates proportionally (though each state interprets that to their own liking), a measure instituted by the RNC to keep the race competitive into March. The 2016 primary calendar is technically shorter, but more importantly, it will be more intense than the 2012 race. The concern is that with so many delegates up for grabs on a proportional basis—more than in any other cycle—that it will take longer for any one candidate to get the requisite number. That’s still very unlikely, but for all the reasons above is more likely to happen this year than at any point in recent memory. Unbound delegates may be pledged by personal statements or even state law, but according to RNC rules, may cast their vote for anyone at the convention. This obscure rule passed to prevent Paul from being nominated on the convention floor in 2012, requires that candidates win a majority of eight delegations to be entered into nomination and have their delegates counted. But there will be plenty of opportunities for more moderate candidates to come away with delegates, and maybe some victories too.
If no candidate has the required number of delegates on the first ballot, balloting will continue until a nominee emerges with a majority of delegates.