WASHINGTON — In a primary race where every delegate may count, U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio could still prove to be a spoiler.

MassGOP Chairman Kirsten Hughes was one of 21 state Republican leaders who received letters this week from Rubio asking to keep his earned delegates rather than allowing them to be released to other candidates. This comes after he dropped out of the race two weeks ago following his home-state loss in Florida.

Rubio will get to keep the eight delegates he earned in the Bay State, but that decision was based on state party rules and not the Florida senator’s request, said state party spokesman Terry MacCormack.

“Since Sen. Rubio has only suspended his campaign and has not formally withdrawn, his delegates will be allocated to him when the Allocations Committee does its work this April,” MacCormack said. “So we were intending to proceed this way regardless of whether he communicated with us or not.”

In other states, Rubio’s delegates were either retained, divvied up between other GOP candidates or released to the control of free-agent delegates who can back the candidates of their choice.

It is unclear how many of the 171 earned delegates Rubio will be able to hold, but every one could make it more difficult for front-runner Donald Trump to reach the 1,237 threshold needed to clinch the nomination and prevent the primary race from ending in a contested convention.

Should the race go to the convention, and neither Trump nor any other candidate wins on the first ballot, it’s not clear how delegates from Massachusetts may be swayed.

Brian Kennedy, national director of the Massachusetts Republican Assembly, said Trump’s support “pulls from both conservative and those who are a lot more moderate.”

“I actually think that all of the primaries in all of the states are getting contested all the way up to California in June,” said Kennedy, who voted for Cruz. “I think it’s a good thing because every state in the election matters.”

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