DENVER - After Ted Cruz completed his sweep of all 34 delegates at the Colorado Republican convention, Donald Trump branded the state GOP’s caucus system "rigged" and "crooked."
Trump told Fox & Friends that rank-and-file Colorado Republicans are "going absolutely crazy because they weren't given a vote, this was given by politicians. It's a crooked deal. ... It's a rigged system."
Trump implied that he didn’t bother speaking to the Colorado convention because state "politicians" controlled the process and there’s "no voting." Fox News contributor Pete Hegseth asked Trump, "Isn't it just fair to say, These are the rules, Ted Cruz is organized, and you're just flat-out being out-organized?"
Trump disagreed, saying, he has "out-organized" Cruz because "I have millions of more votes" and more delegates.
Like many state caucuses, Colorado’s is a complex and arcane maze for newcomers to navigate.
But was the Colorado system "rigged" and a "crooked deal" that deprived people of their vote, as Trump claimed?
Confusing as they are, the rules for the caucus were changed in August 2015, two months after Trump entered the presidential race. And there’s no evidence the tweaks were made to disenfranchise Trump.
Let’s dig deeper.
Trump has performed better in states with primary elections, where his supporters can simply vote at their regular neighborhood polling place. But the Republican frontrunner’s campaign has struggled in state caucuses because it has lacked a strong ground game to shepherd voters through bewildering caucus gatherings that are rife with rules.
When Trump said there was "no voting" at the Colorado caucuses, he was referring to an August 2015 decision by the state GOP's executive committee, which unanimously voted to abandon a presidential preference poll at this year’s precinct caucuses. The committee said it was reacting to the national party changing its rules to bind state delegates to the caucus winner — potentially leaving delegates tied to a candidate who later dropped out of the race.
Yet, Trump is wrong in saying there was "no voting" at the caucuses. About 60,000 Republicans attended the state precinct caucuses. People voted at every level of the delegate selection process.
The multistep Colorado GOP caucus process began March 1, when party members selected delegates at precinct caucuses. Those delegates moved on to higher-level gatherings before delegates for the Republican National Convention were selected at district assemblies and the April 9 state convention.
Cruz, whose campaign had been building an organization in Colorado since January, was the only GOP presidential candidate to address the state convention. He grabbed all 34 delegates.
Trump supporters, however, describe a problem-plagued process at the state convention.
Party organizers left about 30 delegates off the ballot and had to send out a correction sheet just before the convention vote. At least one Cruz delegate was entered twice on the ballot, replacing a Trump delegate, said Gabriel Schwartz, a Trump backer and state convention veteran.
"Very obvious there was gross incompetence at the state (GOP) level," Schwartz told KMGH-TV.
State GOP officials called the snafus a few "clerical errors" that didn’t impact the convention’s outcome.
ADenver Posteditorial said the Colorado Republican Party’s process for selecting presidential delegates "ranked among the least representative of all states." The editorial based its finding on the caucuses’ delegate-to-voter ratio — roughly 1 to 1,714 — and a national analysis by FiveThirtyEight.com.
"In short, Colorado Republican leaders got what they wanted when they abandoned a presidential preference poll at the caucus. An extremely narrow base of activists and insiders chose the delegates in a process that ranked among the least representative and democratic in the country," the editorial said.
However, theeditorial still concluded, "Not that Donald Trump and his supporters have any ground for their complaints. As we've said before, they knew the rules."
Even some Trump backers were disappointed by the campaign’s weak effort in Colorado.
Trump delegate Larry Lindsey posted a YouTube that went viral of him fuming about being denied entrance to the state convention and burning his Republican party registration paper.
Lindsey said he later learned that he was ineligible for the convention because he’d missed a county caucus vote. Yet, he said, someone told him the meeting was postponed.
"The (Trump) organization here in Colorado was definitely lacking. I have to admit that, reluctantly," Lindsey told PolitiFact.
University of Denver political scientist Peter Hanson said Cruz’s win in Colorado is a reminder that a good ground game matters.
"Organization is key," Hanson told KMGH-TV. "It's one thing for a candidate to give a speech to a rally and think that their work is done. That's just not the way it works."
U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner, R-Colo., who endorsed Sen. Marco Rubio,issued a sharp rebuttal to Trump’s criticism of the state caucus system.
"Donald Trump, who has known the rules since last August, he decided not to show up. Elections are won by those who show up and Ted Cruz showed up," Gardner told Fox News.
Trump saidthe Colorado GOP’s caucus system is "rigged" and "crooked."
There are plenty of problems with Colorado’s caucus system. The delegate selection process is dominated by party activists and insiders, and this year’s caucuses were hampered -- at best -- by confusion and technical glitches.
But Trump is complaining about rules that were in place eight months ago, when the Republican presidential race was clogged with 17 candidates. There is no evidence the rules were designed to favor a specific candidate.
His campaign took a pass on the Colorado caucuses, focusing instead on the delegate-rich New York primary, while Cruz ran an exhaustive ground game in the Centennial State.