Majority of Rubio's Louisiana Delegates Push Back Against Claims They're Backing Cruz

Four delegates previously allocated to Marco Rubio say they are now uncommitted.

ByABC News
April 19, 2016, 2:44 PM

— -- Despite reports that Louisiana’s 10 uncommitted delegates will likely vote for Ted Cruz on the first ballot at the Republican convention in Cleveland, four of the five delegates previously assigned to Marco Rubio have come out with a joint statement declaring they are undecided about who they will vote for this summer.

The statement, signed by Louisiana delegates Stephanie Berault, Kirk Williamson, Luke Letlow and Leslie Tassin, all of whom were allocated to represent Marco Rubio at the convention, unequivocally says they are now uncommitted and have not decided how they will vote.

“We reserve the right to support another candidate in the future but at this time feel it necessary to remain strictly uncommitted out of obligation to our candidate of choice and our voters,” the four delegates write. “Any reporting of our intention to support one active candidate over another is simply not accurate.”

The statement comes after Donald Trump threatened to sue Louisiana if he ended up with fewer delegates from the state than Cruz. Although Trump won the Louisiana primary, he and Cruz both received 18 delegates. Rubio received five, and another five were deemed uncommitted as a result of the allocation process.

But under the Republican Party of Louisiana's rules, Rubio’s five delegates became free agents after he dropped out, bringing the number of uncommitted delegates to 10, all of which are prime for wooing by the Trump and Cruz campaigns.

The Wall Street Journal reported in March that local Louisiana GOP leaders expect the 10 uncommitted delegates to back Cruz at the convention, prompting Trump to tweet that he could take legal action.

While some of the non-Rubio unbound delegates have signaled support for Cruz, nearly all the delegates assigned to Rubio decided to clarify they had not made a choice yet.

After Trump claimed he would sue the state if all the uncommitted delegates supported Cruz, the spotlight intensified on the delegates, and four of the five delegates sought to make clear they were not committed to any candidate. The fifth delegate, Jennifer LeBlanc, did not sign the statement.

“It said the 10 uncommitted were leaning toward Cruz,” Tassin, one of the delegates who signed the statement in question, told ABC News, referring to the Wall Street Journal article. “But nobody had ever called me or the other delegates that were committed to Rubio. So we said, 'We’ve got to get together and stop this media reporting.'”

In most election years, unbound delegates do not have outsize influence at a convention. But there is an increasingly likely possibility that no candidate will gain the 1,237 delegates needed to secure the nomination. If that is the case, the candidate with the highest number of delegates will need as many uncommitted delegates as possible to hit that number on the first round of voting at the convention. An ABC News analysis found that over 136 delegates could be uncommitted on the first ballot.

Lionel Rainey, who was Rubio’s state grassroots director in Louisiana and who now works for the Cruz campaign, still thinks a majority of Rubio’s Louisiana delegates will jump to Cruz. The two senators are “virtually identical in regard to specific policy and core beliefs,” he wrote in an e-mail to ABC News, and he thinks Trump’s comments belittling Rubio could backfire.

“If [Trump] really wanted the support of Rubio’s delegates, maybe he shouldn't have called him 'Little Marco' every chance he had,” Rainey said.

But Tassin noted that it's the Trump campaign that's been trying to sway his vote, not the Cruz campaign.

“We had a Trump person come to my house and spent an hour and a half,” Tassin said. “I have had zero contact from any Cruz person.”

He added: "They say Cruz is better than Trump but I disagree with that."