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For Rubio’s Minnesota delegates, race is far from over

ST. PAUL -- Marco Rubio took time away from his kids' bedtime Wednesday night to thank the men and women who helped him win his only state: Minnesota.It was a bittersweet moment; Republican Rubio dropped out of the presidential race Tuesday, just...

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Former Republican presidential candidate Sen. Marco Rubio passes by reporters after voting Thursday on Capitol Hill in Washington. (Reuters)

ST. PAUL - Marco Rubio took time away from his kids’ bedtime Wednesday night to thank the men and women who helped him win his only state: Minnesota.
It was a bittersweet moment; Republican Rubio dropped out of the presidential race Tuesday, just two weeks after his Minnesota triumph.
Now his Minnesota supporters have to decide which of the remaining candidates will win their allegiance - and their choices may shape who the Republican Party nominates for president this summer.
At Minnesota district and statewide conventions this spring, Republicans will elect delegates to the Republican National Convention - and 17 of those delegates will be officially bound to vote for Marco Rubio, even though his campaign is over.
But in practice, those delegates will likely be free agents at the convention. They’ll be bound to vote for Rubio on the convention’s first ballot only if Rubio is a candidate on that first ballot. Unless the convention changes its rules - a distinct possibility - that won’t happen.
“That makes the Minnesota delegation perhaps a strategic component of the convention,” said Keith Downey, the chair of the Republican Party of Minnesota. Downey said that Rubio’s delegates will be “very popular people” as candidates scramble to reach the 1,237 delegates needed to win the nomination.
If frontrunner Donald Trump, Ohio Gov. John Kasich or Texas Sen. Ted Cruz reaches that threshold, it doesn’t matter how Minnesota’s Rubio supporters vote. But it’s a very real possibility that no candidate wins enough pledged delegates to clinch the nomination, which means delegates at the national convention will be free to pick the nominee.

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