This Is What Happens To Delegates When A Candidate Drops Out Of The Race

Photo: Ron Jenkins/Getty Images.
Super Tuesday results are (mostly) in, and to everyone's surprise, the Democratic party has another frontrunner leading the way. On March 3, 14 states and one territory held primary elections. For presidential candidates, 1,357 delegates were up for grabs, helping to form a true picture of the party's potential nominee. For those who missed it, #Joementum was very real on one of the biggest voting days of the election, and the frontrunner is now clear: former Vice President Joe Biden.
Biden came away with victories in Arkansas, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Alabama, North Carolina, and Virginia, as well as surprising wins in Minnesota, Massachusetts and projections in Texas. Sen. Elizabeth Warren, on the other hand, didn’t win any, though she has pledged to stay in the race. But, many noticed the names of candidates with suspended campaigns still on the board. Namely, former South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg and Sen. Amy Klobuchar won delegates before they suspended their campaigns, begging the question, what happens to those delegates after a candidate drops out of the race?
Well, it’s complicated. Buttigieg won 26 delegates, while Klobuchar won 7. Those 33 delegates are just a small fraction of the 1,991 needed for a candidate to clinch the party nomination, but in the event that it ends up being close, those 33 delegates could matter a whole lot.
One important thing to note is that both Buttigieg and Klobuchar have suspended their campaigns as opposed to ending them — this is an important distinction. It means that they retain their delegates for as long as their campaign is suspended, until the state conventions, at what point those delegates essentially become free agents.
By suspending their campaigns instead of ending them, they avoid their delegates being reallocated to Sen. Bernie Sanders (both Buttigieg and Klobuchar have endorsed Biden). “As long as they are still in campaign mode — and they technically and barely still are,” political scientist Josh Putnam told the Washington Post, “they protect those delegates from being reallocated.”
The delegates that Buttigieg and Klobuchar won are pledged delegates, which means they are expected to vote for the candidate who won them. By the time the state conventions roll around, if the Buttigieg and Klobuchar campaigns are still in suspension mode, those delegates will be able to vote for whichever candidate they want.
Just because they were pledged to Buttigieg and Klobuchar doesn’t mean they have to vote for the person those candidates have endorsed. Essentially, those delegates will get to choose for themselves come state convention time.
Now, Sanders is awaiting a pretty big delegate sweep in California as polls continue to trickle in. But with Biden is at the forefront and many anticipating Warren and Bloomberg to suspend their campaigns in the coming days, those re-allocated delegates would be a huge game-changer in the 2020 race to the Oval office.
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