For the GOP, it might all come down to North Dakota
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For some inexplicable reason, I have always been fascinated by the state of North Dakota. In fact, of all the 48 states in the contiguous United States, it is the only state I have never been to.


A few years back, Jon Margolis wrote a piece for The New York Times magazine where he told everybody that it was the least traveled-to state in the entire country. Most people don't confuse the state right smack in the middle of the country with such swank tourist destinations such as Palm Beach, Squaw Valley, the Hamptons or Marin County. The leisure class is not prone to fly off to Bismarck (the state capital) for a few days in February for rest and relaxation. You don't hear many people saying "Minot is wonderful this time of year."

Maybe because it is so unfashionable that this place has a strange exotic appeal to me.

I once had a conversation with Sen. Eugene McCarthy (D-Minn.) about North Dakota. The first thing he said was "wheat." And then he repeated the word a few more times. Long ago, there was a staunch Republican senator from North Dakota named Milton Young. McCarthy said that the only thing Young would talk about was wheat. McCarthy also observed that it "was hard to spend money there." He meant that as a compliment.

One thing that has always amazed me is that there is no voter registration in the state. That's right. The whole system is sort of a giant state honor system. The prevailing ethos is that no one would dare vote if they weren't truly eligible and a resident of the place. Amazing and incredible.

But after that lengthy prelude, let me get to a contemporary and crucial political point. North Dakota will send 25 "unbound" delegates to the Republican convention in Cleveland in July. "Unbound" is the operative word. It means that those delegates can do anything they please when the party faithful convene in Cleveland. They don't have to vote for one person on the first ballot. No, they are truly totally free agents. Maybe that's why Sen. Ted CruzRafael (Ted) Edward CruzSenate panel deadlocks over Biden pick to lead DOJ civil rights division Yang: Those who thought tweet in support of Israel was 'overly simplistic' are correct CNN asks Carol Baskin to comment on loose Texas tiger MORE (R-Texas) was at the North Dakota Republican convention this past weekend working the crowd.

This "unbound" delegate concept got me thinking about this very possible scenario: Donald TrumpDonald TrumpProject Veritas surveilled government officials to expose anti-Trump sentiments: report Cheney: Fox News has 'a particular obligation' to refute election fraud claims The Memo: What now for anti-Trump Republicans? MORE or another Republican candidate is short of the magic number to win the nomination on the first ballot (1,237). They know that the only way they can secure a first-ballot nomination is to deliver North Dakota. In Cleveland, these 25 delegates now know they are the most desired, sought-after and important people in the entire hall. No more political obscurity for them; they are in the ultimate catbird seat. My recommendation is the following.

First, demand from every aspiring first ballot suitor a pop quiz on their state. I suggest some of the following questions:

  • Name the hometown of Lawrence Welk (Strasburg).
  • Name the state motto ("Liberty and Union, Now and Forever, One and Inseparable").
  • Name the state fossil (teredo petrified wood).
  • Name the state dance (square dance).
  • Name the state nickname (Peace Garden State, Roughrider State or Flickertail State).

If there is a flicker of knowledge on these arcane matters, move to the "Famous People from North Dakota" category. If they immediately gush forward with Roger Maris, Eric Sevareid and, best of all, Angie Dickinson, please give the candidate serious consideration.

Now it comes time to make some requests. No request is too off-the-wall, banal or ridiculous. Remember, they want your vote; You are key. If you play your cards right, they very well might jump at the chance to win you over.

Some possible North Dakota demands:

  1. Insist that the January 2017 Inauguration Day be moved to Grand Forks.
  2. Insist that the 2020 Republican convention be held in Fargo.
  3. Insist that the majestic movie "Northern Lights" be shown in every American classroom.
  4. There is some confusion about which Dakota came into the Union first. Correct that by proclaiming North Dakota the 39th state, not South Dakota.
  5. Get a pledge that the candidate, if elected president, will attend the annual U.S. World Championship Turtle Races.
  6. Mention Lewis and Clark repeatedly in your acceptance speech. Remember to say that North Dakota ranks as the happiest state in the union. (I don't know why.)

All right, that's the game plan. It might never come again. You "unbound" delegates, seize the day!

Plotkin is a political analyst, a contributor to the BBC on American politics and a columnist for The Georgetowner.