Unlike every other state, except Colorado, GOP stronghold North Dakota does not hold a caucus or primary. Instead, delegates will be chosen this weekend by party insiders, not voters. Also, North Dakota has 28 unbound delegates, who will essentially be free agents at the GOP convention.
So, with the possibility of a contested convention looming overhead, the weekend in Fargo has been comprised of backroom deals, as aides and surrogates for the remaining Republican candidates attempt to woo potentially precious delegates in hopes of locking down their support at the national convention in July in Cleveland.
The ballrooms of the Ramada Plaza Hotel in Fargo were decorated Friday and Saturday nights with Trump, John Kasich and Ted Cruz paraphernalia, while the designated delegate-hunters for each campaign roamed the room, courting the delegates over hot food and a cash bar.
Brian Jack and Alan Cobb, members of Trump’s delegate team, were also spotted darting between the meeting room and the hospitality suite with a list of delegates, securing them for private meetings with Carson.
ABC News was in the closed-door meetings, as Carson explained his endorsement of Trump, touting the real estate tycoon's business record and pragmatism, while making a strong pitch against Kasich and Cruz.
Sitting between his wife Candy and Congressman Kevin Cramer, R- North Dakota, Carson attempted to convince the room of delegates of Trump’s electability.
While some of the delegates thought Carson was an ideal surrogate for Trump because of his perceived sincerity, not everyone was sold: Delegate Shane Goettle, for example, told ABC News he is leaning towards Cruz, although he has not made a firm decision.
Also impressed with Carson’s pitch was Dick Dever, although he said Kasich is currently his favorite. Like Goettle, Dever said he still had yet to make a firm decision.
All 28 delegates from the state will be unbound on the first ballot and are chosen at this weekend's state convention. An 11-member state party panel will score delegate applicants based on certain criteria, including history of work for the party, donations and candidacy, and submit a list to the convention of top choices. The full convention then votes on each individual delegate.
Since it’s mathematically impossible for Kasich to win the Republican nomination before the convention, his delegate team was focused on a contested convention.
Former New Hampshire Senator Gordon Humphrey, who has endorsed Kasich, said of North Dakota's 28 delegates, “We’re prospecting for these 28 golden nuggets."
Humphrey described the “delegate relations” process as two-pronged: First, becoming friendly with the delegates in a social setting, and then the attempts to sway and persuade their voting in July.
“We get to know people on a friendly basis," Humphrey said. "It’s about relationships. We are going to invite them to dinner, lunch, breakfast, cocktail hour, whatever it is. Then we begin to get some indication of how they are leaning, who can be persuaded and what their intentions are on a second ballot.”