Donald Trump has repeatedly blasted the arcane rules the Republican Party uses to assign delegates, most recently accusing the campaign of rival Texas Sen. Ted Cruz of "crooked shenanigans," on Sunday as the candidates head toward a possibly contested Republican National Convention in July.
But while Mr. Trump asked supporters at a rally in Rochester N.Y., if it was fair that he could lose the nomination despite having received "millions more votes than Cruz" – it turns out that he has actually benefited more than Senator Cruz from the party's process for assigning delegates.
Despite winning 37 percent of all votes in the Republican primaries, he has been awarded 45 percent of the total delegates so far, bringing his total to 756 delegates, an analysis by NBC News shows. Overall, for each percentage point of total votes Trump has won, he’s received 1.22 percent of the total delegates, giving him a delegate bonus of 22 percent over his popular support from voters.
Mr. Cruz, by contrast, has been given a delegate bonus of 14 percent above his support among voters. With 545 delegates, he has received 32 percent of the total delegates so far while winning about 28 percent of all votes, according to the analysis.
While the delegate math is in his favor, Trump has frequently sought to cast himself as the underdog following a victory by Cruz in the Wisconsin primary this past week. Paul Manafort, Trump's newly promoted convention manager, accused Cruz of "Gestapo tactics" in an interview on "Meet the Press" on Sunday.
His supporters have also frequently pointed to the brash businessman's appeal as far outside the party’s mainstream.
"Along comes this voice that says 'We are not going to stand for that anymore,' " Beverly Perlson, of Aurora Ill., told The Christian Science Monitor last week. "Politicians these days are so busy making sideline deals they have lost sight of who they work for. Trump is not taking money from anyone. He is genuinely interested in making America great again – that's the best way to say it,” she adds.
By hiring Mr. Manafort, a veteran political consultant to oversee his efforts to gain more delegates in order to avoid a runoff with Cruz, there are some indications that Trump may be retooling his campaign strategy after losing in Wisconsin, the Associated Press reports.
But in Rochester on Sunday, Trump aligned himself with Sen. Bernie Sanders (I) of Vermont, pointing to their shared popular support among voters despite pundits seeking to dismiss their primary victories.
"He wins and wins and wins, and I hear he doesn't have a chance?" Trump told supporters, The Washington Post reports. "This is a crooked system, folks. I couldn't care less, but he wins, like me. I've won twice as much, millions more votes. People who have never voted have come out and voted for Trump."
The NBC analysis contradicts those claims somewhat, noting that Trump has won about 8.2 million votes, or 1.9 million more than Cruz, who has won about 6.2 million, not double the number of votes.
State laws could likely force the top two candidates into a nomination battle at the Republican convention if neither wins a majority of the primaries. In awarding the nomination, Republican Party leaders could focus on factors such as the gap in popular votes. That may be one reason why Trump is now focusing on his primary victories over Cruz, NBC reports.
In response, the Cruz campaign hit back at Trump's claims that the party system is rigged against him.
"It's no surprise that Trump's team will lash out with falsehoods to distract from their failure," Cruz communications director Alice Stewart told The Washington Post. "We have earned our success by working hard to build a superior organization."
In Rochester, ahead of the New York primary on April 19, his supporters most frequently described Trump as the underdog, facing a Republican Party that has increasingly attempted to coalesce – at times reluctantly – around Cruz in an effort to defeat Trump.
"They suggest they can take that right away from the American people to choose their leader," Carl Paladino, Trump's state co-chairman said at the rally.
"How brazen is that?" he added. "How can someone become so out of touch with the reality of America, the reality that this country has the rule of law?"
A Fox News poll released Sunday shows Trump well ahead in New York with 54 percent support among likely GOP primary voters. Ohio Gov. John Kasich garners 22 percent and Cruz is third with 15 percent.