- Associated Press - Friday, April 8, 2016

COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) - Billionaire businessman Donald Trump handily won all 50 delegates in South Carolina’s first-in-the-South Republican primary in January but that doesn’t mean he will keep all that support at the party’s national convention.

Establishment dissatisfaction with Trump and the possibility he won’t have the 1,237 delegates needed to secure the nomination on a first vote means the nominee won’t be set until after the convention in Cleveland.

After the first convention vote delegates are free to support someone else.

Intense lobbying to sway delegates to another candidate if Trump doesn’t win initially has been taking place in South Carolina which begins selecting national delegates this weekend.

Here’s a look at the delegate process:



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WHAT ARE DELEGATES?

Delegates are representatives of South Carolina’s Republican Party who attend the Republican National Committee’s convention in Cleveland.

South Carolina is a winner-take-all state, meaning that all of its 50 delegates will be bound to support Donald Trump during the first round of voting. The billionaire businessman won big here in the February 20 GOP primary, with more than 32 percent of the vote in a field of half a dozen hopefuls.

Trump hasn’t reached the threshold of 1,237 delegates required to lock up the nomination, and he might not make it before the convention. If the first round of voting fails to yield an all-out winner, as some have predicted will happen, that means delegates will be released to back whichever candidate they desire.

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HOW ARE THEY SELECTED?

Three of South Carolina’s 50 delegates have already been picked: state GOP Chairman Matt Moore and Republican National Committee members Cindy Costa and Glenn McCall.

The process of picking the remaining 47 delegates begins in earnest this weekend, with the first two of a total of seven conventions in each of the state’s congressional districts. A total of 21 delegates will be selected there, while the remainder is picked at the state GOP convention May 7.

Only the 900 or so delegates who attended last year’s state GOP convention can run or vote in this year’s district-level or state conventions for national slots. National Republican Party officials say the states had to submit their delegate selection plans last fall and must certify their state slates in June.

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WHAT ELSE DO DELEGATES DO?

Delegates are also responsible for helping spell out the GOP platform for the next four years until another presidential election. South Carolina’s delegation will pick representatives to a variety national convention committees, like rules and credentials, which will meet this summer and submit reports and recommendations.

National GOP officials point out that the rules for this year’s convention haven’t even been officially set yet - and won’t be until later this year, so it’s difficult to forecast exactly how the party will handle various issues at this year’s confab.

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WHY AM I HEARING SO MUCH ABOUT DELEGATES THIS YEAR?

When it comes time for the national convention, the party’s presidential nominee usually has already been mathematically decided. The last time there was this much uncertainty was 1976, when Gerald Ford lacked a majority heading into the convention. He ultimately won the nomination on the first vote over Ronald Reagan.

Trump’s recent loss in Wisconsin made it unlikely that the front-runner can secure 1,237 delegates before July’s national convention, increasing the stakes of delegate selection. In recent days, his campaign tapped veteran operative Paul Manafort to oversee his delegate- and convention-related activities.

South Carolina state Rep. Gary Clary, a Clemson Republican and John Kasich supporter who is running for a national delegate spot, says he’s looking forward to Cleveland’s delegate votes, the successes of which are reliant on a campaign’s organization within the states, just like with primary voting.

“Whether you’re running a political campaign or trying to organize delegates in a convention, the key to it is having the best ground game, to ensure that your people get out and that your message gets out,” he said.

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PREDICTIONS

State party officials say they are confident South Carolina’s delegate selection process could be more heated than in years past but will go smoothly overall. Clary, who is making his first run as a national delegate, advises people with questions about the process to watch this year’s activities closely.

“Everything has been so perfunctory in Republican politics since 1976. And this is certainly not routine this year,” he says. “Be patient. It’s going to be quite a ride.”

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Kinnard can be reached at https://twitter.com/MegKinnardAP . Read more of her work at https://bigstory.ap.org/content/meg-kinnard/

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