Can you believe it's finally, truly over? After all the months and months of winnowing, jockeying for position, and venomous personal attacks, the Republican presidential primary has finally ended with just one candidate left standing ― billionaire businessman and presumptive GOP nominee Donald Trump. Which means all that talk about delegates and contested convention rules will almost surely be a moot point by the time the Republican National Convention rolls around in July. But all the same, here's something you might wonder: do all John Kasich and Ted Cruz's delegates go to Trump now, or are they still bound to their previous candidates?
The simple answer is that it's not so simple. Different states have different rules about when a candidate's delegates become unbound ― in the state of Louisiana, for example, delegates become unbound the moment a candidate drops out of the race, which is why Marco Rubio's five delegates from the state have become such hot targets. Some states, however, like Kentucky, Iowa, and Georgia, require that delegates support who they were awarded to through the Republican convention's first ballot, after which point they're free to support whoever they want.
The upshot? Basically, Kasich and Cruz's delegates will in no sense automatically transfer to Trump. What will happen is that some of those delegates, freed to choose by their state's rules, will have the option to support Trump or any other person they'd like to see win the nomination, while the delegates that remain bound will have to support who they were originally bound to.
Of course, this will probably be moot by the time the convention rolls around, because even considering the trove of delegates that Cruz, Kasich, and Rubio managed to snap up during their time in the race — a combined 872 when it was all said and done — they didn't come close to the 1,237 majority Trump is eyeing. If he passes that threshold himself, then none of those other delegates matter one bit, and he was on-pace to get there even with Cruz and Kasich still in the race. Now, with Kasich having dropped out hot on the heels of Cruz's withdrawal, Trump is now running essentially unopposed in the final nine state contests, and needs just 189 more delegates to lock down the nomination.
If by some miracle — and yes, with nobody left in the field, this would genuinely require one of the most bizarre, unthinkable finishes in modern American political history — Trump doesn't get to 1,237, then the whole thing opens up again on a second ballot at the Republican convention. And then, all of the delegates become unbound, not just Cruz's, Kasich's, and Rubio's, but Trump's, too.
That's so remote an unthinkable a situation as to be not worth considering at this point, however. The real story here is that whatever happens to the other candidates' delegates, it's not going to matter one whit to Trump anymore. He's now cruising (no pun intended) to his big moment in the sun, and there's nobody left in the field to even try to stop him.