In the United States Presidential Primaries, what happens to a candidates delegates if they later withdraw from the race? For example, in the 2016 Republican Presidential Primary for the State of New Hampshire, Donald Trump would win 11 Delegates, John Kasich would win 3, Ted Cruz would win 2, Jeb Bush would win 2 and Marco Rubio would win 2. What happens to these delegates if/when one of these candidates withdraws from the Presidential race? Are they awarded to the withdrawn candidate anyway? Divided up between the remaining candidates in some proportion?

  • UPD 3/2/20: On March 1, Pete Buttigieg dropped out despite being the third candidate by delegates. What will happen to those nearly 30 delegates that he had won by that point? Are they free to cast their votes as they please or can Pete "direct" them to back Biden in order to help him thwart Bernie (a drop in the bucket but still)? Commented Mar 6, 2020 at 8:37
  • Heck, you didn't bother to give new answers, people, did you? Did I spend my 50 points for nothing, huh? Commented Mar 8, 2020 at 10:01
  • That's quite a lousy answer, frankly. I want to know EXACTLY where those Pete's delegates will or can go. "Some states, other states" — one could give a more precise answer given that he participated only in 4, right?, primaries Commented Mar 9, 2020 at 10:22

1 Answer 1


It depends. Some states may force delegates to defer to the dropped out candidates endorsement but other states may let their delegates vote freely at the national conventions. Usually the delegates defer to the endorsement out of pure decency but they can vote for whoever they like, including the candidate which dropped out.

  • 1
    Interesting... so theoretically the smaller candidates could band together via endorsements to overcome a larger, but mutually disliked candidate... Commented Feb 10, 2016 at 20:06
  • 3
    Do you know an example of a state in which delegates are forced to vote for the person their candidate endorses? Commented May 5, 2016 at 15:42
  • @JulianRosen I don't think that it happens now, it was an old practice.
    – needshelp
    Commented May 7, 2016 at 5:51

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