What happens to Rick Santorum’s delegates?
“Against all odds, we won 11 states,” Rick Santorum told supporters in Gettysburg on Tuesday afternoon as he announced that he was suspending his campaign for the GOP presidential nod. “Millions of voters. Millions of votes.”
It depends on the states in which Santorum won them.
Of Santorum’s 281 total delegates (according to the Associated Press count), 84 were won in five states that award their delegates in nonbinding contests.
That means that the delegates from those five states — Iowa, Colorado, Minnesota, Washington state and North Dakota – had already been free to vote for any candidate at the convention and remain free to do so.
The remaining 197 of Santorum’s delegates, according to the AP tally, are bound to the former Pennsylvania senator – meaning that unless Santorum explicitly states that he is releasing them, those delegates are required to vote for Santorum at the Tampa convention.
Notably, Santorum did not state in his remarks Tuesday afternoon that he was releasing his delegates to former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney, the front-runner for the GOP nod. In fact, he did not mention Romney by name at all.
So, until Santorum does decide to release them (and he may well decide not to), those 197 delegates remain in Santorum’s column.
(Worth noting: The RNC has its own delegate count, which differs slightly from the AP count, here. The RNC count does not include nonbinding states, and it has Santorum winning 22 delegates in Alabama and 12 in Illinois; the AP count has him winning 19 and 10 in those states, respectively.)
Santorum’s decision to suspend his campaign rather than end it outright is also an important distinction, according to Republican National Committee Communications Director Sean Spicer.
If Santorum had ended his campaign, then his bound delegates would have become unbound.