GOP candidates get busy lobbying Pennsylvania's free agent delegate bounty

What to watch for in the Pennsylvania primaries
What to watch for in the Pennsylvania primaries

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What to watch for in the Pennsylvania primaries 02:44

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  • Pennsylvanians will pick 54 unbound delegates to send to the Republican convention
  • A total of 162 are running for the slots

(CNN)The Republican presidential primary candidates are gearing up to aggressively court delegates in Pennsylvania, with just days to go before voters will pick dozens of them to go unbound to any specific 2016 hopeful at the convention.

Fifty-four delegates elected next week will go to Cleveland in July unbound to any candidate on the first ballot. No other state will send as large slate of first-ballot free agents. The remaining 17 delegates will be bound and awarded based on the statewide results.
    A total of 162 men and women are running for the delegate slots, but their personal preferences will not appear on the primary ballot.
    By Friday, only Ted Cruz and Donald Trump's campaigns had distributed guidance to voters. But their slates, which list individual delegate hopefuls that have promised to support the candidates at the convention,both fall well short of the total unbound bounty. Cruz lists 26 names, while Trump has 39.
    With many of the candidates either choosing to remain uncommitted or waiting on their congressional district's choice to make their own, the contest for the delegates' loyalties is expected to extend well past next week's primary.
    Kasich campaign manager John Weaver told CNN at a meeting of GOP leaders, said Thursday that the Ohio governor is making his case directly to the prospective delegates.
    "The unbound delegates are going to be able to punch above their weight going to Cleveland and they're going to be very important," Weaver said. "We have very good relationships with the party structure, leadership in the state, and we're supported by the four former Republican governors in Pennsylvania and we have very good leadership in the state."
    But the race still favors Trump, who leads most recent polls in the state by double-digits. The front-runner and frequent critic of the Republican nominating process has not released a slate, but is engaging the potential delegates.
    "I am a supporter for Mr. Trump and if elected as a Republican delegate to the convention in Cleveland, I will vote for Mr. Trump on the first and every ballot thereafter," Jim Keffalas, a realtor from Butler, told CNN in an email. Another delegate candidate, Cruz supporter Aldridk Gessa, told CNN the Trump campaign had called to see if she would be willing to support him on a later ballot.
    Calvin Tucker, who is running to be a delegate out of the state's 2nd congressional district, told CNN on Thursday that if elected he expects to stay uncommitted right up until the convention.
    "I'm not going to give up any leverage at this point," he said, adding that a big victory for Trump in his district could strongly influence his decision.
    Tucker said surrogates for all three campaigns had reached out to him.