Republican presidential front-runner Donald Trump lashed out at what he called the party's "rigged" delegate selection rules on Monday after rival Ted Cruz swept all of Colorado's 34 delegates over the weekend.
The New York billionaire, who has been outmaneuvered by Cruz in a series of recent state meetings to select national convention delegates, said the process was set up to protect party insiders and shut out insurgent candidates.
"The system is rigged, it's crooked," Trump said on Fox News on Monday, alleging the Colorado convention results showed voters were being denied a voice in the process.
"There was no voting. I didn't go out there to make a speech or anything, there's no voting," Trump said. "The people out there are going crazy, in the Denver area and Colorado itself, and they're going absolutely crazy because they weren't given a vote. This was given by politicians - it's a crooked deal."
Trump has 743 bound delegates to 545 for Cruz, according to an Associated Press count, in the battle for the 1,237 delegates needed to win the nomination on the first ballot and avoid a messy floor fight at the Republican National Convention from July 18-21.
But both are at risk of not acquiring enough delegates for a first-ballot victory, leaving many free to switch their votes on later ballots.
That has set off a fierce scramble by Republican candidates to get their supporters chosen as convention delegates and brought new scrutiny to the selection rules, which vary by state.
Trump, who has brought in veteran strategist Paul Manafort to lead his delegate-gathering efforts, complained about Cruz's recent success at local and state party meetings where activists pick the actual delegates who will attend the national convention.
Trump accused Cruz, a U.S. senator from Texas, of trying to steal delegates in South Carolina. Trump won the state primary in February, but Cruz supporters got four of the first six delegate slots filled at congressional district meetings on Saturday, according to local media.
“You can buy all these votes”
"Now they're trying to pick off those delegates one by one," Trump said. "That's not the way democracy is supposed to work. They offer them trips, they offer them all sorts of things and you're allowed to do that. You can buy all these votes."