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Trump: Pennsylvania's System Is 'Corrupt'

Trump: Pennsylvania's System Is 'Corrupt'
(Sipa via AP Images)

Wednesday, 20 April 2016 10:24 AM Current | Bio | Archive

Even before Donald Trump emerged triumphant from New York Tuesday night, he was already taking shots at the delegate selection process next up in Pennsylvania.

"I'm not blaming Pennsylvania, I'm not blaming anything," Trump said during a campaign stop in Western Pennsylvania last week. But "it's a corrupt system."

He was referring to the Keystone State’s system in which all but 17 of its 71 delegates to the national convention are elected as “free agents”—able to vote for any candidate they choose at the convention, regardless of which candidate voters chose in a presidential primary that is in effect a “beauty contest.”

What Trump denounces as a “corrupt system” has been in place since the first Pennsylvania primary between President William Howard Taft and insurgent former President Theodore Roosevelt in 1912.

54 of the 71 delegates—three delegates from each of the state’s 18 U.S. House districts—will be elected April 26.

Candidates for these delegate positions run under their own names and without any designation of being a supporter of any presidential candidate. Once elected, according to state party rules, these delegates “shall not be officially committed to any particular candidate on the ballot.”

The remaining 17 delegates from Pennsylvania are composed of 10 at-large delegates, four bonus delegates, and the three Republican National Committee members from the state: State Party Chairman Rob Gleason, National Committeeman Robert Asher, and National Committeewoman Christine Jack Toretti.

All 17 are bound to the winner of the primary for the first ballot.

In 1980, Pennsylvania was 1 of 5 states in which George H.W. Bush defeated front-runner and eventual nominee Ronald Reagan. With backing from most elected officials, Bush won the primary by a margin of 51 to 43 percent over Reagan and thus kept his underdog campaign fueled until the Republican National Convention (where Reagan picked the runner-up as his running mate).

Bush’s win in the primary was not any subject of worry for Reagan’s supporters in Pennsylvania. They scored well in the races that counted.

“We elected more delegates to Detroit [site of the 1980 national convention] than Bush did,” recalled attorney and longtime conservative activist Charles Gerow, a state Reagan leader that year. “[Pennsylvania Reagan leader] Drew Lewis and our people focused on the races for delegate instead of the beauty contest, we made it clear who was a Reagan delegate and who wasn’t, and we won.”

For all of Trump’s fury over the Pennsylvania process, his supporters who are actually Pennsylvanians involved in Republican politics are fine with it. Asked if he had a problem with the rule in which delegates are elected as “free agents,” attorney Marc Scaringi, Trump backer and candidate for delegate from Pennsylvania’s Fourth District, told me: “I do not. Not at all. We live in a republic and not a direct democracy. And we participate under the rules we have.”

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Even before Donald Trump emerged triumphant from New York Tuesday night, he was already taking shots at the delegate selection process in Pennsylvania.
trump, cruz, kasich
Wednesday, 20 April 2016 10:24 AM
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