Pennsylvania, the third-largest state left to vote (behind California and New York) will play a big part in that equation. Their reasoning makes sense as Trump and John Kasich each have a claim to the commonwealth while Ted Cruz could do quite well in the remaining contests in the western United States.
Thanks to the peculiarities of PA delegate allocation, however, the Keystone State could factor all the way until the July Republican National Convention.
We discussed in January how the Republican Party arrives at Pennsylvania’s 71 delegate allocation total. Three party leaders, plus four bonus delegates added to 64 electoral delegates. 10 of those electoral delegates are distributed to every state as each state has two Senators (five delegates per Senator). The rest of the electoral delegates is determined by granting 3 delegates to each congressional district in the state.
Pennsylvania has 18 congressional districts multiplied by three delegates equals 54 delegates. Why are those delegates important? Because they are completely unbound.
In some contests, most prominently Florida and Ohio, the statewide winner gets all the delegates. Many other states give the statewide winner the leader, bonus, and ten of the electoral delegates. The rest of the electoral delegates, those allocated by congressional district, go to the candidate that won that congressional district.
All states follow this procedure except two: Illinois and Pennsylvania.
In Illinois, however, prospective delegates had to identify which candidate they were supporting on the ballot. In PA, though, no such condition exists.
This means that 54 of PA’s delegates are completely unbound and could theoretically vote for any candidate at the convention.
Furthermore, many voters may not be aware of this. The delegate process (as you can see) is complex as it is. Their names are placed at the bottom of the ballot and could be ignored entirely by those that show up at the polls. Others may just simply vote for the first three names listed.
Already we’ve seen that subtle biases can emerge even when it is clear which delegate is supporting which candidate. For example, Dave Wasserman of FiveThirtyEight found Trump voters were less likely to vote for delegates with foreign-sounding names even though they were Trump proxies. This probably cost “The Donald” three delegates.
As of this moment, Trump is currently on pace to finish just under the 1,237 threshold necessary to win the nomination.
In 1976, President Gerald Ford won over delegates with White House visits and trips on Air Force One.
What would a boisterous billionaire do to win over 54 Pennsylvanians that sit between him and the Republican nomination? In a year full of surprises, we may just find out.