Bay State GOP caucuses preview Cleveland nomination fight

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BOSTON Saturday’s Massachusetts Republican caucuses could prove crucial to who emerges at July’s Republican National Convention to claim the party’s presidential nomination.

With New York billionaire Donald Trump and Ted Cruz, the senator from Texas, counting and courting every last delegate across the country, the selection of 27 convention delegates from Massachusetts (three each from the nine congressional districts) could be critical. Cruz has been working furiously to make sure Trump fails to hit the magic number of 1,237 delegates needed to secure the nomination, while Trump has recently added senior aides with experience rounding up delegates to help ensure that he does just that.

In Massachusetts, Trump steamrolled through the commonwealth on primary day, scoring a landslide win among voters who weren’t necessarily from the Republican Party. Despite his overwhelming support, Trump’s big day only assured him of first-ballot support from 22 delegates, or just over half of the 42 total who will go to the convention in Cleveland. And on Saturday, Trump’s team won’t be able to draw on support from independents or Democrats who may have backed him in March — only Republicans who were party members in February can attend the delegate-selecting caucuses.

If he can’t reach the 1,237-delegate number by the end of primary season in June, Trump’s Massachusetts victory could be for naught, especially if a wave of Gov. Charlie Baker’s fiscally conservative, socially liberal Republicans manage to claim most of the 27 convention delegate seats that are up for grabs in the party caucuses. A failure of any candidate to reach 1,237 votes on the first ballot in Cleveland would give Bay State delegates the opportunity to back whichever candidate they choose, even Ohio Gov. John Kasich, who has only won one (his home state) of 38 primaries thus far.

The stakes mean that elected officials loyal to certain candidates, like Andover Republican state Rep. Jim Lyons, are angling to win a delegate seat in Cleveland. Lyons last week announced that he will stand for election in Saturday’s third congressional district caucus. Lyons, Cruz’s Bay State campaign chairman, wrote that he’s seeking to be a delegate “so that I can continue to advocate for a strong, principled Republican Party at our national convention.”

Cruz, meanwhile, only garnered 9.6 percent of the vote in the March 1 primary, good for just four Massachusetts delegates. But if Trump, who has led the Republican race for months, fails to snag at least 1,237 delegates on the so-called “first ballot,” that could render Cruz’s poor performance moot.

Along with the 27 delegates who will emerge from Saturday’s caucuses, another 12 will be elected on May 25 by members of the party’s state committee. The remaining three will reflect the state GOP leadership: Party Chairman Kirsten Hughes, National Committeeman Ron Kaufman and National Committeewoman Chanel Prunier. Prunier, a Shrewsbury resident, will go to Cleveland as a voting delegate despite losing her post earlier this month to state Rep. Keiko Orrall of Lakeville. Party rules mean that Orrall won’t become the state committeewoman until after the national convention.

Baker, who last month played a significant role in helping 52 moderate Republican candidates win seats on the 80-member state committee, hasn’t publicly said who he’d like to see them choose as delegates.

“The governor does not intend to make asks or attempt to influence that process,” Jim Conroy, a senior adviser to the governor, recently told “He will leave the Massachusetts delegates to make their own decisions.”