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Pennsylvania's Unbound Delegates Take Their Pick


We have a very powerful man in our studio now. Let me explain. Republican voters in Pennsylvania have a lot of power in this primary season. They get to vote later this month for Cruz, Kasich or Trump. But they'll also select their delegates. They might have the most power of all. Pennsylvania has 71 delegates in total. Fifty-four of them are unbound. And that means they can vote for anyone they want in the case of a contested convention, even someone who didn't win their state or district. So Philip English, a former congressman from Pennsylvania, he's running for delegate in the state's third district and joins us in our studios. Thanks so much for being with us.

PHILIP ENGLISH: Thanks for having me here.

SIMON: Maybe we can just get rid of all the suspense. Who you going to vote for?

ENGLISH: I haven't decided yet. And I've decided to put off the decision 'til closer to the convention if I'm elected. I want to give all three of the remaining candidates a full chance and then go to the convention and try to make the best decision.

SIMON: Does this mean that you will be indifferent to who wins the primary or at least who wins your district?

ENGLISH: No, I think it's very important that delegates look at where the local support is, but I think we need to inquire about how the candidates involved are going to pitch their message in a state like Pennsylvania against a candidate like presumably Hillary Clinton. We need to field someone who could be competitive and win.

SIMON: Mr. English, if you were to become a delegate, would you cast your vote for someone who is not running for president?

ENGLISH: I'd certainly consider it. You know, we've seen all of the candidates running have every opportunity to close the deal. If no one does that then I think the delegates have not only the opportunity but the obligation to consider other options.

SIMON: Well, let me try a couple names on you.


SIMON: Paul Ryan, the speaker of the House.

ENGLISH: I know Paul very well. He was chosen by the last convention. I think he would be - if he chose to be a candidate - a very strong one. So far he has indicated he doesn't want to be considered and I respect that.

SIMON: His running mate - if you please - Mitt Romney.

ENGLISH: Mitt Romney could be an option for people at the convention.

SIMON: So you'd be open to voting for either of them, but you're not necessarily asking them to step in right now.

ENGLISH: That's exactly right. I think we need to let the primaries play out. I also think there is an opportunity for a truly deliberative convention to come through with a very strong Republican ticket against a Democratic ticket that I think is going to be very flawed and where I think many in the public are looking for an alternative.

SIMON: Mr. English, what are the implications of asking millions of people to vote in the Republican primary and yet maybe setting aside a judgment they make to pick someone else?

ENGLISH: That's such an important question. And the truth is if we go into the convention and no one has a majority of the delegates then the voters will have been consulted and they will not have produced a clear winner. At which point certainly someone who goes in with a solid plurality would have a compelling argument to be considered in the convention. But I don't think it would be automatic for them because, let's face it, a majority of the Republican primary voters would have gone in a different direction at that point. What I don't want to see is what my grandfather saw at the 1920 Republican convention. He was a delegate. And he was there when Boies Penrose literally dictated the nomination of Warren Harding from his deathbed. I don't think we want to see a brokered convention.

SIMON: Phil English is a former congressman from Pennsylvania and now senior government relations advisor at Arent Fox, which is a lobbying firm in the District of Columbia. Thanks so much for being with us.

ENGLISH: Thanks for having me here. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.