At least 39 of the more than four dozen unpledged Republican delegates elected by Pennsylvania voters Tuesday are poised to support the presidential nomination of party front-runner Donald Trump, according to a Washington Post analysis of the results.
The unofficial total would expand Trump’s substantial delegate lead over Sen. Ted Cruz (Tex.) and Ohio Gov. John Kasich — but a final tally from Pennsylvania won’t be officially known until delegates cast ballots at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland in July.
That’s because while Trump easily won the state and its 17 at-large delegates, 54 delegates — three from each of Pennsylvania’s 18 congressional districts — are officially unpledged, meaning they didn’t have to announce their pick before primary day and won’t have to until they vote at the convention.
But dozens of delegate candidates publicly stated in advance that they would support whomever won their congressional district or a particular candidate.
Trump won every congressional district in the state, earning him at least 14 votes from delegates who said they would vote for the winner of their district, according to The Post’s tally.
The group includes Lee Snover, a conservative Christian gun owner who owns a construction company in Bethlehem Township. Given her beliefs, she said, “my ideology is Ted Cruz. My reality is Donald Trump.
“It’s what my district voted, it’s what the state voted, and it’s what I believe,” she said.
In the months leading up to the primary, Trump and Cruz recruited supporters to run for delegate positions. Even if a delegate declared a preference, they are still allowed to switch sides.
But at least 25 delegate candidates who say they support Trump won Tuesday, according to tallies made by The Post and several Pennsylvania news organizations. The Trump campaign released a slate of officially endorsed delegate candidates, but the intentions of some people listed had been reported differently by news organizations.
Trump supporter Patrick Kerwin won a seat from the 15th Congressional District and said that the businessman is “the best possible candidate. I think he’ll make a great president.”
Wayne Buckwalter, a lawyer from Downingtown, was the only Trump-declared supporter running for a delegate seat in the 6th Congressional District. His victory Tuesday night fulfilled a childhood dream.
In an interview last week, Buckwalter said he decided to run as a Trump supporter “so that people in my district would know that at least one of three would show up and vote that way.”
Speaking on “Fox and Friends” Tuesday morning, Trump said he has persuaded a “substantial” number of Pennsylvania’s delegates to vote for him.
“I’ve got most of those delegates tied up,” he said.
At his victory party in New York on Tuesday night, Trump said that unbound delegates have “a moral obligation” to support him, given his big victory.
Trump aides said Tuesday that they were expecting to win votes from at least 34 unpledged delegates. Unlike in other states where Trump has struggled to cultivate would-be delegates, he hired a state director, Ted Christian, who began recruiting potential candidates in December.
In some congressional districts, interest in running was so high that the Trump campaign had to vet contenders and pick just three to endorse, said a senior aide who is familiar with the process but was not authorized to speak publicly about campaign strategy. In several rural counties, volunteer distributed copies of the campaign’s official slate of delegates to voters as they entered polling places — a sign that Trump devoted significant resources to winning the state.
Cruz supporters won at least four delegate seats. But the senator’s campaign had recruited 26 supporters to run, and even Cruz’s state director came up short in his bid to win a seat.
The rest of Pennsylvania’s unbound Republican delegates remain up for grabs, saying they will wait to meet with the candidates or prominent surrogates before making a final decision. They will become the focus of intense lobbying by the three presidential campaigns.
Several undecided delegates said they are in no rush to decide. And some delegates vowing to support Trump warned that they might change their minds if he doesn’t win the nomination on the first ballot.
The three delegates elected from Pennsylvania’s 1st Congressional District, encompassing most of Philadelphia, are a good example.
“I’m an urban rowhouse Republican,” said Christopher Vogler, 42, a business consultant from the Mayfair section of the city. “I’m not the stereotypical silver-spoon Republican — me and 55 other houses are on my block.”
Vogler said he remains undecided and wants to speak with Cruz, Kasich and Trump about how they would fund Section 8 public housing and how they would stop Philadelphia from becoming a “sanctuary city” that refuses to help federal agencies apprehend undocumented immigrants.
David Hackett, 47, a labor and employment lawyer from suburban Delaware County, plans to vote for Trump, given his commanding victory.
But if the convention goes to multiple ballots, “there are too many variables to know what we face,” Hackett said. “My intention is to ensure that we have the most electable candidate.”
Seth Kaufer, 36, a gastroenterologist from South Philadelphia, said he has spoken with “prominent” surrogates for all three contenders. In a phone call with Heidi Cruz last week, Kaufer said he told the senator’s wife that “in a general election, you really need to tone down the rhetoric on the social issues and be mindful of the audience.”
“She agreed with me,” he said.
In Pittsburgh, Mary Ann Meloy, 77, said she’ll remain uncommitted until the convention begins. She attended her first GOP convention in 1968 and later worked in the Reagan administration.
“I always say that 24 hours is a lifetime in politics,” she said, adding later: “This is only April. I think remaining uncommitted is the wise thing to do.”