More than 500 members of the Colorado Republican Party want to be among those who get to choose the 2016 Republican presidential nominee. Only 34 of them will win that responsibility. And the process to winnow them down is a complicated one.
First off, there will be 37 Colorado delegates total, but three of those slots are reserved for party leaders -- the state GOP chair, the national committeeman and national committeewoman. And there are two different places where the Colorado GOP elects the rest of its delegates: The congressional district assemblies, and the state convention.
Congressional District Path
Colorado is divided up into seven congressional districts and each gets to pick three delegates and three alternates. Two of those districts, the 1st and 6th, held their conventions on April 2 and Texas U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz swept the field, with all six of the elected delegates pledging to support him at the RNC.
The 7th will elect its representatives on Thursday, April 7. Twenty-nine people are confirmed to be running for those spots. The other four districts elect their delegations on April 8, one day before the state convention. Two hundred and thirty-one people are confirmed to be running for those 12 spots.
State Convention Path
That leaves 13 delegates to be elected by the whole state convention. As of Monday, 502 people are confirmed to be in the running. They are chosen by the 3,953 state delegates attending the convention, who fill out a ballot with their 26 preferred picks. The 13 people who receive the most votes become Colorado's delegates, and the next 13 people become alternates.
Who Gets To Run?
Like everything else in this process, it's complicated.
Just to be eligible to run for an RNC slot, a person first has to get elected to be a delegate or alternate to either the state or a congressional convention. That process started at the precinct caucuses way back on March 1. In some counties, caucusgoers select representatives to attend a county convention, which in turn elect delegates to the state and Congressional District assemblies. Other counties streamline the process and choose their state and CD delegates on caucus night.
So then, if you've been elected as either a delegate or an alternate to the state or congressional caucus, all you have to do is submit a form at least 13 days before your convention if you want to run to be a delegate to the national convention. Since the state convention is April 9 and the congressional conventions have to be before that, all the forms should be in by now.
How Voting Works
At each of the assemblies on Friday and the state convention on Saturday, there will be people passing out printed suggestions of who to vote for. These people are often affiliated with a particular campaign and want to make sure their candidate wraps up Colorado's support.
When they submitted their intent-to-run forms, RNC delegate candidates had the choice of either binding themselves to a candidate -- which requires them to vote for that person at least on the convention's first ballot -- or running unbound.
"You can verbally commit, but it's a binding requirement once you sign that form," said GOP state party chair Steve House.
Campaign supporters have spent the past few weeks contacting would-be delegates to find people with the right mix of candidate loyalty and name recognition to make them strong contenders for the RNC slots.
Republican party insiders say Cruz's campaign has been mobilizing for months to make sure its supporters win the delegate slots, with U.S. Rep. Ken Buck heading the effort to construct a competitive state.
Buck's former chief of staff, Greg Brophy, says Cruz has a natural advantage in Colorado's caucus process, because his confrontational, anti-establishment approach to politics matches the mood of many of the party's current activists.
Cruz has one other thing on his side -- his views align well with state Sen. Tim Neville, one of the top contenders for the party's nomination to challenge Democratic U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet. Neville needs the support of state convention-goers to secure a slot on the primary ballot. So all the organizing his campaign is doing to get his backers to the convention is also likely to benefit Cruz.
Businessman Donald Trump, on the other hand, is playing catch up in the delegate chase. He appears to have much less on-the-ground organization in Colorado, and only a fraction of would-be RNC delegates have pledged to support him.
Both of the leading Republican candidates clearly have an eye on Colorado's delegate selection process, though. Cruz has announced that he will address the state convention on Saturday and rumors are swirling that Donald Trump may also hold his first events in the state at the end of the week. Ohio Gov. John Kasich will not be attending. His campaign is sending former New Hampshire Gov. John Sununu as his surrogate.
Whatever the outcome, it's far from the end of presidential politics in Colorado.
Tune in to Colorado Matters on Thursday for more on the state GOP presidential politics and beyond.