What Happens to Delegates for Romney, Edwards?

Before Mitt Romney and John Edwards dropped out of the race, they won more than 300 delegates between them. What happens to these delegates now that their candidates have called it quits? After talking to some of these delegates, the only matter that becomes crystal clear is that there are few hard and fast rules across the board.

High school English teacher Debbie Nelson is one of the delegates in question. On Jan. 8, she voted for John Edwards in the New Hampshire primary. Three week later, Edwards announced he was suspending his campaign.

Now, Nelson says, not a day goes by without someone trying to persuade her to support either Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama.

"Some people think it's obvious who I should support, including my own son, and I'm enjoying being a little coy," she says.

Edwards, meanwhile, hasn't endorsed either of the two other Democratic candidates and Nelson says she has yet to hear much from her fellow Edwards-supporting delegates.

Republican businessman Bruce Brown is also a first-time delegate. He was elected last month in Wyoming to be a delegate in support of Fred Thompson. Then Thompson dropped out. According to state party rules, this left Brown free to support any remaining Republican candidate.

"But I took it back to my exec committee because they were some of the folks who elected me and I just wanted to get their input," he says.

They told Brown that they liked Mitt Romney, and Brown did, too. Then last week, Romney announced he was suspending his campaign.

"I thought, 'I'm not going to go to Vegas anytime and put any sports bets down, because I'm having trouble picking a winner,'" he says.

Brown says he's now supporting McCain, but it's unclear what the other Romney delegates will do.

University of Kansas Political Science Professor Burdett Loomis notes that, technically speaking, neither Romney nor Edwards has officially said they are out of the race.

"You notice that these people don't quit the campaign, they suspend the campaign, so they may be able to control their delegates," Loomis says.

Throughout the country, there are more than 280 Romney delegates, but different states have different rules. For instance, Loomis says, the two dozen Romney delegates in his home state of Michigan have been told that they are free to vote as they like. In Massachusetts, the former governor still has control of his 22 delegates. And in some states, GOP delegates won't even be selected until upcoming county conventions.

As for the Democrats, the race is much tighter, especially after the Potomac primaries. With Clinton trailing Obama by a total of just 25 delegates, the 26 delegates pledged for Edwards could prove important.

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