Sure, the prospect of being a delegate to a national political convention has always been a big deal — but it's usually also kind of a formality.
By the time a convention rolls around, parties typically know who’s gathered enough support to earn the nomination, according to whatever rules they’ve established in advance.
Not so in 2016.
There are still a few important contests ahead, but it’s looking increasingly likely that the Republicans won’t have an official nominee by the time the party gathers in Cleveland this summer.
As NPR has pointed out, this would be the Republicans’ first “contested convention” in 40 years. If so, the party could be in for several rounds of voting at the convention itself — and a candidate's success could hinge on his ability to sway state delegates like the ones from New Hampshire.
And while Hillary Clinton holds a slightly surer lead in the Democratic race, there’s still a possibility that Bernie Sanders could rack up enough victories in the remaining primaries to even out the score heading into their convention. His campaign hasn’t been writing off the possibility of an open convention in Philadelphia, either.
So who, exactly, are these delegates from New Hampshire — and how are they selected?
On the Democratic side
The state party just finalized their lineup for the convention this past weekend. Most of the delegates, 26 of 32 total, are divided proportionally based on the outcome of the primary: Sanders gets 15, and Clinton gets nine. (Each candidate also gets to have an alternate delegate on standby.)
But there’s another group of eight delegates — including Gov. Maggie Hassan, Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, Rep. Annie Kuster, all of whom endorsed Clinton during the primary — who are “unpledged” and could, technically, support either candidate.
Almost immediately after the primary, Sanders supporters (and some Republicans) took issue with the idea that these delegates could end up going against their state’s Democratic primary voters by backing Clinton. New Hampshire Democratic Party Chairman Ray Buckley said in February that this wasn’t going to be an issue.
“If Bernie Sanders is the likely nominee, we will all support Bernie Sanders. If Hillary Clinton is the likely nominee, we will all go with Hillary Clinton,” Buckley said. “Every single convention, we have uniformly gone with the nominee – and that’s exactly what is going to happen again.”
On the Republican side
Candidates (even those who placed in the New Hampshire primary but have since dropped out of the GOP nomination race, like Jeb Bush) get to select a slate of delegates to represent them at the convention.
Those delegates are awarded proportionally based on the results of the primary: Donald Trump has 11, John Kasich has four, Ted Cruz and Jeb Bush each have three, and Marco Rubio has two. (Each candidate also gets a matching number of alternates.)
The full rundown of those delegates includes a mix of state lawmakers, local campaign strategists and grassroots volunteers. Included among the Trump delegates selected for New Hampshire is his own campaign manager, Corey Lewandowski, who hails from Windham and was active in local Republican politics before joining the Trump team.
Delegate drama on display
With more of a spotlight and a potentially more pivotal role than ever before, the delegates have also been facing more pressure than ever. As reported by The Hill, Republican delegates have been barraged by media inquiries and plenty of political commentary by friends trying to persuade them to back a certain candidate.
“My phone is ringing off the hook,” one Indiana delegate told The Hill. “'World News Tonight' is calling me on the other line right now. I’ve heard from Fox Business News, NPR, The Washington Post. I know how these things work, but my family’s life has been completely upended.”
On the Democratic side, as reported by NPR, a “Superdelegate Hit List” started making the rounds online in recent weeks. It was created by a Sanders supporter as a way to pressure delegates on the Democratic side who aren’t bound to support a certain candidate, like the group of unpledged New Hampshire delegates, to back the Vermont senator.
So it’s safe to say the stakes are maybe a little bit higher than usual for the slate of delegates heading to the conventions from the Granite State.