Newt Gingrich-Bound Georgia Delegates Sit in Waiting

Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Former Republican presidential candidate Newt Gingrich won 52 Georgia delegates in March. Even though he dropped from the race, those bound delegates must vote for Gingrich this summer at the Republican National Convention in Tampa, Fla., until he releases them to the presumptive nominee, Mitt Romney. Gingrich has yet to do that.

Gingrich spokesman R.C. Hammond told ABC News that the Gingrich campaign is working closely with the Romney campaign on the delegates and, under their advice, will release the delegates at a certain time. For now, they’re waiting.

“If you look at past campaigns, they’ve held on to their delegates until much later. Most wait until August,” Hammond said.

Waiting to release the delegates until the convention could prevent questions of where those newly unbound delegates will go. With Ron Paul in the race all the way to the convention, the Gingrich campaign holding on to the delegates actually could help Romney because there is no stigma or question of Romney not being able to line up unbound delegates.

Randy Evans, a Georgia Republican delegate and former senior adviser to the Gingrich campaign, told ABC News that he believes Gingrich will make the decision on releasing his bound delegates around the time Romney reaches 1,144 delegates. Romney is expected to hit that mark during the Texas Republican primary.

“Newt does have to release the delegates. Otherwise, we are bound to him for the first two ballots,” Evans said. “When we filled out our paperwork at the convention last week, we signed an oath saying we were committed to be a Gingrich or a Romney delegate.”

Romney received 21 delegates from the Georgia primary.

Elected Georgia delegate Stefan Passantino told ABC News he’s legally bound to vote for Gingrich at the convention and would gladly do so.

“Among the Georgia delegation, they remain very true and strong supporters to Newt to this day,” Passantino said. “There will not be much resistance to support him as long as he is seeking that support.”

Passantino said that although the delegates, once released, will be able to cast their vote for whomever, he suspects they will mostly go Romney’s direction.

“If Newt releases the delegates and tells us to get behind Romney, I suspect then there will be overwhelming willingness to get behind him,” Passantino said.

Though Passantino said there was a “very vocal Ron Paul minority” at the Georgia state convention, they were not able to overthrow the slate of delegates selected, most of which are likely Gingrich supporters and will go on to support Romney, not Paul.

“There was an effort made to have other nominations, but the delegates at the state convention voted to close the slate,” Passantino said. “This is unlike what you’ve seen in other conventions and people being selected from the floor. That did not happen in Georgia.”

Another Gingrich-bound delegate, Linda Herren, who serves as the Georgia national committeewoman, did not endorse a candidate in the Georgia race, but told ABC News that Gingrich’s bound delegates are essentially in waiting.

“That’s the rules, so my opinion doesn’t really count. I assume he will release at some point,” Herren said.

While the delegates bound to Gingrich have to wait for his OK to cast their vote for someone else at the convention, Herren said, “from a practical standpoint, I don’t see that happening.”

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

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