what happens to them, and the delegates of other former candidates, at the convention in Cleveland?
The short answer is: It varies from state to state, but the Republican Party leaves enough wiggle room that the delegates of former candidates could end up being a factor in July.
“An unbound delegate is worth their weight in gold,” Rick Wilson, a GOP strategist, told FoxNews.com. “It’s hard to speculate and there’s a lot going on right now.”
Rubio, in suspending his campaign after his home-state Florida loss, leaves 169 delegates behind. Ben Carson accrued eight delegates before he dropped out of the race, while Jeb Bush picked up four. Carly Fiorina, Mike Huckabee and Rand Paul each picked up one in Iowa.
And if either Ted Cruz or John Kasich drop out in the weeks ahead — and Donald Trump still has not clinched the nomination with the necessary 1,237 delegates — additional zombie delegates could be in play in Cleveland.
That’s because in most states, delegates become “unbound” and are free to support other contenders as soon as their candidate withdraws.
They don’t necessarily have to gravitate toward the front-runner at a contested convention, or, in the case of Rubio’s delegates, the candidate the Florida senator may ultimately choose to endorse.
They would become essentially free agents, prizes to be wooed by the candidates duking it out in Cleveland.
However some states bind their delegates to the first ballot no matter what.