Writing about the GOP presidential campaigns’ courtship of delegates in Pennsylvania, I’d reached out to Representative Tom Marino (R), one of Donald Trump’s top backers in Pennsylvania. Marino got back to me today and we discussed his efforts woo delegates on Trump’s behalf.
Pennsylvania will award 71 delegates. 17 are bound to the winner of the state’s primary on the first ballot at the convention. The other 54 are elected independently – three from each congressional district. Those 54 arrive at the convention unbound, making them ripe for persuasion by the campaigns. Two weeks before the primary, that process is beginning to unfold.
“One of my roles is to reach out there to as many delegates as I possibly can personally, find the people who are not committed, find the people who may be committed, and see if they’re willing to talk to me and have a discussion” about supporting Trump, Marino tells National Review.
The process he says, started about a month ago, but by then he was already talking to people in northeastern district. Of the 20 or so delegate candidates he’s talked to, “I’ve only had two people tell me that they would not support Trump,” he says.
“And with a little smile on my face I said, ‘We haven’t fully completed our discussion.’”
Marino says it’s an ongoing process: “There’s a fair number [of delegate candidates] that feel that they should vote the way the state votes,” though they are not required to. The campaigns of both Ted Cruz and John Kasich made similar observations, noting that as a result, conversations with delegates can be more substantive once the results are in and the delegation has been elected.
But Marino says he will do his best to publicize delegates supporting Trump in advance of the April 26 primary so that Trump supporters can vote for Trump-supporting delegates. Beginning in his district, he says, he’s been reaching out to delegate candidates – there are 14 candidates for the three slots – to say, “‘I want to make sure you’re OK with me letting the public know who you support.’ And I’ve had no opposition in that area. In fact, people have been coming to me and saying, ‘I’m supporting Trump.’”
Marino also says he’s been struck by how many people who are not regular Republican voters have expressed interest in supporting Trump. That’s evidenced on the list of delegate candidates: Mary Ann Meloy, a longtime party activist, says she suspects there may have been some kind of effort to recruit Trump delegates, as, unusually, many of the people running for delegate are unknown to party regulars. Marino says he is unaware of any such effort.
Several delegates who spoke with National Review over the past few days mentioned comments by Trump’s sometime advisor Roger Stone, suggesting that there were underhanded dealings going on to “steal” the nomination from Trump, and saying he would publish the hotel room numbers of delegates who were involved, and singling out the Pennsylvania delegation in particular. Marino says he hasn’t had any discussion about those comments, and seemed to throw cold water on the idea that there’s any kind of subversive plot afoot to undermine Trump.
“This delegate deal, not only in Pennsylvania, but across the United States, you know, the states are responsible for it and, you know, their rules are their rules,” says Marino. “And one has to adapt to those rules and go out and solicit support from those delegates, no matter how they’re put together.”