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Conventional Wisdom: Cruz’s Delegates May Be Losing Faith

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I know FiveThirtyEight readers are all in a tizzy about tonight’s Met Gala (what will Rihanna wear?), but there is delegate news to be attended to before spending the day clicking through photo galleries of questionable couture; without further ado, the news from the provinces.

CANDIDATE DELEGATES
0 Donald Trump 957
0 Ted Cruz 546
0 John Kasich 154
1 Hillary Clinton 1,662
1 Bernie Sanders 1,373
Delegate counts as of May 2

Democratic count does not include superdelegates.

Delegate leakage: Leading The New York Times digital front page on Sunday was a story of delegate leakage — the loss of unbound and second-ballot delegate support — and it wasn’t about usual suspect Donald Trump, who’s been known to lose out to delegate slates aligned with Ted Cruz at state conventions. It’s starting to look like there is trouble in Cruz-land.

Cruz is generally thought to be the best at gathering the human chess pieces required to win the Republican nomination at a contested convention that goes on beyond the first ballot. But the Times reports that delegate support for Cruz is “softening” as the perceived inevitability of Trump strengthens. In North Dakota, the Cruz campaign was originally thought to have cornered the support of most of the state’s 28 unbound delegates. But it now seems that he has only around 12 delegates and that confidence in him is slipping. In Pennsylvania, which has 54 unbound delegates who are directly elected by the voters, only a couple of Cruz-supporting delegates emerged from last Tuesday’s primary.

Alaska: While the news out of the contiguous United States wasn’t that rosy for Cruz, he’s doing better in the great American tundra. Last Thursday, the Central Committee of the Alaska Republican Party (a body that sounds a teensy bit Soviet, no?) voted to allow Marco Rubio to hold on to his five delegates for the duration of the Republican National Convention this summer. This is a victory for the anti-Trump forces: If Rubio’s delegates had been reapportioned, Trump would have gotten three. And even though Cruz won the state, he would have gotten only two, because of some murky, cold-weather logic — Alaska’s party rules are rather vague about this stuff. Five delegates ain’t much, but like a middle school couple’s fight via spiral notebook in the back of math class, this is a battle that takes place in the margins.

Arizona: The state whose desert sun is beloved by cacti and feared by the dermatological community held its Republican convention over the weekend and party members voted for the 58 people who will be RNC delegates in Cleveland. Trump won Arizona in its March 22 primary and will have full delegate support on the first ballot at the national convention, but support for Cruz and John Kasich on a second ballot would be strong, should things get that far.

At the state convention, party members cast ballots through an official party website with the URL neverhillary.simplyvoting.com, and Trump is estimated to have won only around a dozen delegates — ones who would support him past the first ballot — prompting his surrogates to cry foul. According to CNN, State Treasurer Jeff DeWit “yelled as supporters around him raged at the results,” saying that “Trump got cheated” and that “somebody messed with the system.” Former Gov. Jan Brewer’s name was mistakenly left off the online Trump slate, leading her to criticize the process, but state party Chairman Robert Graham said the rigging allegations were “laughable”; representatives of all the campaigns were present as the names of the delegate candidates were digitally put onto slates.

Sundry other goings-on:

  • During congressional district conventions held this weekend, 24 of Missouri’s 52 delegates were selected, with Trump technically taking away 15. But according to reports, only six of that number are actually his supporters. (Trump won the state’s March 15 primary and will have the support of the majority of its delegates on the first ballot.)
  • In Massachusetts, Beacon Hill toffs squirmed in their tasseled loafers as Trump won a resounding delegate victory, finding support among 22 of the 27 delegates up for selection this weekend. Massachusetts will have 42 total delegates at the national convention and will pick the remainder of its delegates on May 25; three have already been appointed by the state party. (Trump won the state’s March 1 primary and will have the support of most of its delegates on the first ballot.)
  • Arkansas held congressional district conventions over the weekend as well, picking 12 delegates; it wasn’t clear from reports what the candidate preferences of the selected delegates were, though the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette noted that “in most cases, the winning delegate candidates had been vetted and recommended by the candidates they sought to represent.” Twenty-five more delegates will be picked on May 14. (Trump won the state’s March 1 primary and will have the support of 16 delegates on the first ballot; Cruz will get 15.)
  • There is also drama afoot in New Hampshire, where the state’s GOP is making an effort to block Trump-supporting delegates from slots on any of the committees at the RNC, including the all-important Rules Committee. Trump won New Hampshire by a wide margin, and one of its delegates is, as luck would have it, Trump’s controversial campaign manager, Corey Lewandowski.

For now, all eyes will be trained on Tuesday’s Indiana primary. If Trump wins big there and gets closer to clinching the 1,237 votes needed to win the nomination on the first ballot, the hand-to-hand combat of delegate selection could be a moot point, all sound and fury signifying nothing. The bittersweet unknowns of May have yet to reveal themselves.

Clare Malone is a senior political writer for FiveThirtyEight.

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