- Associated Press - Friday, March 25, 2016

RICHMOND, Va. (AP) - Texas Sen. Ted Cruz came in a distant third in Virginia’s Republican primary election, receiving less than half the number of votes than billionaire businessman Donald Trump. But if the Republican presidential convention in July goes to more than one round of voting, many political watchers believe Cruz could be poised to win a large majority of Virginia’s 49 delegates.

Here’s a look at how:

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WHAT ARE DELEGATES AND WHAT DO THEY DO?

Delegates are representatives of the state party who attend the Republican National Committee’s convention in Cleveland.

Virginia delegates will be bound during the first round of voting with an allotment already determined by the March 1 primary, with Trump winning 17 delegates, Cruz getting 8 and Ohio Gov. John Kasich getting 5. Even candidates who dropped out will still get votes based on how they did in the primary. But if a nominee isn’t selected in the first round, Virginia delegates will be free to vote for whomever they choose.

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HOW ARE THEY SELECTED?

Virginians who promise to support the Republican Party and filled out the right paperwork are eligible to run for delegate. Delegates will be selected both at a state GOP convention at the end of April in Harrisonburg and at GOP district meetings in each of Virginia’s 11 congressional district throughout the spring.

Convention goers will elect a state party chairman, a national committeeman and a national committeewoman, all whom are automatic delegates. The only spot expected to be contested is for national committeewoman. Both party chairman John Whitbeck and national committeeman Morton C. Blackwell, who has endorsed Cruz, are expected to win re-election.

The state’s 13 at-large delegates to the national convention will also be elected at the convention. The party plans for a nominating committee made up of party insiders to recommend a slate of 13 at-large delegates, with the full convention giving the slate an up or down vote. If nominating committee’s selections don’t get a majority, then there could be a potentially chaotic floor fight to elect the at-large delegates.

Each of Virginia’s 11 congressional districts has a Republican committee that will hold its own convention where three delegates per district will be elected.

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WHY DO POLITICAL INSIDERS THINK THE CRUZ CAMPAIGN HAS AN ADVANTAGE?

No group has shown a better mastery of intra-party maneuvering than Cruz’s tea party followers in Virginia. Ahead of the 2013 gubernatorial election, Former Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli’s supporters took control of the state party and outmuscled potential challengers for the gubernatorial nomination. Cuccinelli, a major Cruz surrogate, still has strong allies within the state party apparatus, including party chairman Whitbeck.

“It’s a Cuccinelli crowd that runs this state,” said Tom Davis, a former congressman who is the Virginia campaign chairman for Kasich.

State Sen. Bill Stanley, the Cruz campaign chairman in Virginia, said the campaign has long put an emphasis on being well organized and prepared for delegate elections and has been actively reminding its supporters of the importance of attending GOP district meetings and the state convention.

But Trump supporters aren’t likely to lose quietly.

Corey Stewart, a local Prince William County official and Trump campaign chairman in Virginia, said there’s “no question” that the Cruz campaign is well organized among party insiders.

But Stewart said Cruz’s third place showing in Virginia shows his support here is weak and the Trump campaign is taking steps to make sure its supporters are well represented among Virginia’s delegates.

“We’re trying our best,” Stewart said. “We’re definitely trying.”

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