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Unbound Delegates Look To Narrow Their Republican Vote


This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. I'm Melissa Block. This week, Republican front-runner Donald Trump warned that there would be riots if Republican leaders reject him as the nominee, even if he's ahead in the delegate count. He was talking about the possibility of a contested convention. If Trump fails to get to the magic number of 1,237 delegates, things are going to get complicated - Byzantine even. And if you are an unbound or unpledged delegate - that is a delegate who can vote for whomever you want - you're probably about to get a lot of phone calls. Matt Micheli is one of those unpledged delegates. He's also chairman of the Wyoming Republican Party. And he joins us now from Casper. Welcome to the program.

MATT MICHELI: Thank you, Melissa.

BLOCK: What does it mean to be - for you to be an unbound delegate? You're essentially a free agent, right, when you go to the convention.

MICHELI: That's right. We still represent the state of Wyoming and we - the results of what the Wyoming people want, I think, is what we will all try to do. But there's no law or no limits on who we can vote for at National Convention. We are free agents.

BLOCK: I would think, Mr. Micheli, that that would mean you'd be getting a lot of people knocking on your door, sending you emails, calling you up, trying to twist your arm, get your support.

MICHELI: Well, it is interesting. Certainly, I think as this race has progressed, the candidates have started to figure out that same kind of - same kind of approach. And the calls have been picking up and everybody's trying to fish around to see if there's anything they can say or do to help maybe influence you one way or the other.

BLOCK: Well, how do those conversations go? What are they asking and what do you tell them?

MICHELI: Well, as a state party chair, I will do my best to stay neutral as long as I can, at least till after our state convention. But, you know, everybody wants to plug their candidates. Everybody's polite and respectful, but everybody's trying to see what they can do to help influence me their direction.

BLOCK: Of the three remaining Republicans in the race, is there one who strikes you as being the best organized, who really seems to have this unbound delegate conversion game down pat?

MICHELI: Well, it is complicated. But on March 12, we did have our county conventions. And we elected 12 delegates on that. And of those 12 delegates, nine were declared for Ted Cruz, one for Marco Rubio, one for Donald Trump and one uncommitted. That shows that Ted Cruz has really been organized - understands kind of the system and how to do that and they've seen results.

BLOCK: Do you think Donald Trump is playing catch-up on that a little bit, not as versed in the ways of how this is done?

MICHELI: I've spoken with, I think, every campaign, virtually every presidential candidate. And the one exception is the Trump campaign. I have not heard from them. I don't know if that's the same everywhere else, but other people have figured out how to get a hold of me and talk to me and I just have not heard from them.

BLOCK: Do you think for folks in Wyoming - I mean, Wyoming went, in its caucuses, went for Ted Cruz by 66 percent of the vote. If the convention ends up going in a totally different direction and Wyoming's delegates end up with somebody else, wouldn't voters back home say, well, that's not what we wanted, that's not what our votes should have shown?

MICHELI: Certainly. And that will play a big role certainly in my decision in how I vote and I assume in every one of our delegates' decisions on how we vote. People expect us to vote for the candidate that Wyoming supports. But at the end of the day, we'll have a nominee that comes out of convention. And sometimes you don't win and sometimes you don't get the candidate you want, but we'll move forward.

BLOCK: There is one other wrinkle that we haven't talked about here, which is that the Rules Committee, the Republican National Committee Rules Committee, could meet in Cleveland, change the rules significantly and everything we've been talking about could be tossed up in the air, right?

MICHELI: Well, yes. The Rules Committee will meet. They'll meet ahead of that National Convention, and they could make some changes. I doubt that they'll make any real substantive changes, I think. But we're kind of in uncharted territory here. If it plays out that nobody gets to the majority, I think everything's going to be on the table, and we're going to have lots of really interesting meetings in Cleveland.

BLOCK: Matt Micheli is chairman of the Wyoming Republican Party and an unpledged or unbound delegate to the convention. Mr. Micheli, thanks for joining us.

MICHELI: All right. Thank you very much. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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