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Republicans Hunt For Delegates In An Unlikely Place: Democratic Districts

ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

The expectation that this summer's Republican National Convention will be contested has all of the candidates hunting for delegates anywhere they can find them. NPR's Scott Detrow reports on that search from one of the deepest blue Democratic pockets of the country, the Bronx.

SCOTT DETROW, BYLINE: There are a lot of things in the Bronx - a zoo, a baseball stadium, 1.4 million people. There's one thing that's pretty rare though - Republican voters.

BRUCE BERG: They're nonexistent.

DETROW: Bruce Berg is a political scientist at Fordham University in the Bronx.

BERG: If I was going to give you a flippant response, I would say we can probably name them.

DETROW: In the one congressional district entirely in the Bronx, Democrats outnumber Republicans by a 19 to 1 margin. In the 2012 presidential primary, less than 300 Republicans voted in that district. But Bronx Republicans - they do exist.

MICHAEL RENDINO: Michael Rendino, the vice-chairman of the Bronx Republican Party and part owner of Stan's Sports Bar, the legendary bar in the shadows of Yankee Stadium.

DETROW: This week, Rendino is very, very popular.

RENDINO: Inundated with phone calls, emails, contacts on Facebooks from the strangest, most random people such as yourself - not that you're strange and random.

DETROW: That's because New York distributes most of its 95 delegates by congressional district. Each district has three to give out, even heavily Democratic districts like the ones in the Bronx. That means the small handful of Republicans who vote here next week will kind of be super voters.

RENDINO: Figure we have seven delegates for this borough for 10,000 or less votes.

DETROW: For presidential campaigns, that means swinging a couple dozen voters one way or another could lead to one or two extra delegates, and that could be the difference between a clinch nomination and a floor fight. That's why Trump's campaign manager is calling Rendino and why both Cruz and Kasich were making campaign stops in the Bronx.

Most Bronx Republicans appear to be leaning Trump. As the subway rumbles over the sports bar, Rendino says he appreciates Trump's focus on blue-collar issues he thinks the party has ignored.

RENDINO: It's all been about the special interests, the big corporations and the social right-wing social conservatives, more about religion and gay marriage - things that aren't as big an issue to people who're living in an urban area like us.

DETROW: At a meeting of the Bronx Republican Party, Linda Schiffren was one of the few attendees backing Cruz, and she was kind of sheepish about it.

LINDA SCHIFFREN: I'm a hundred percent committed, but I do think he could use a speech coach and some better suits.

DETROW: Schiffren lives in Riverdale, a high-income pocket of the Northwest Bronx. She isn't too comfortable with the borough's super voter status.

SCHIFFREN: Look, normal, middle-class Republicans find it kind of funny and also kind of irritating that people who live in the least Republican district in the United States of America have more influence.

DETROW: But that's a dynamic Schiffren and other Republicans will have to get used to. There's no way Trump can clinch a majority of delegates until June 7, the very last day of the primary calendar. That's when California awards 172 delegates, mostly on a district by district basis. So whether or not Republicans head to a contested convention could come down to the handful of Republican voters in deep blue places like Berkeley, Los Angeles and San Francisco. Scott Detrow, NPR News, the Bronx. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.