Now that Rick Santorum is out of the race, what happens to his delegates?
Santorum has 285 delegates, according to the latest ABC News delegate estimate, second to Mitt Romney’s 661. He captured the majority of them by winning 10 states–11 if you count Missouri’s nonbinding primary, which the candidate counted in his bowing-out speech today.
But some of those delegates were never really “his.” ABC estimates that 78 Santorum delegates, from his wins in states that don’t “award” their delegates – Iowa, Colorado, Minnesota, and North Dakota, would have been free to support any candidate at the Republican National Convention in Tampa.
Another two of Santorum’s delegates were Republican National Committee superdelegates, who will attend the convention by virtue of their positions in the party, and are also free to support whomever they choose in Tampa.
Santorum won seven more delegates from unbound caucus states Washington and Wyoming.
He won another 10 delegates from Illinois, where they would not be required by state or national-party rule to vote for Santorum in Tampa, either, although Santorum’s campaign presented their names and qualifying signatures to the state board of elections.
That leaves 188 Santorum delegates heading to Tampa. They’ll be required to vote for him, unless he chooses to release them, according to state-party rules.
Even if Santorum endorses Romney, that doesn’t mean he can gift all of his delegates to his former rival. Should Santorum elect to release his delegates, they’ll become free agents, able to support whichever candidate they choose.
If he does release them, will he receive any votes on the floor of the Tampa Bay Times Forum?
Maybe a few. Mike Huckabee received no votes in St. Paul, Minn., after releasing his delegates. Mitt Romney received two votes, having dropped out two days after Super Tuesday in 2008. Ron Paul, the last man standing against John McCain, who held his own shadow convention as McCain was being crowned, received 20 votes at the Xcel Center, despite failing to qualify for the convention ballot. Romney, who also did not qualify for the ballot, received two votes.