Cruz has outplayed Trump consistently in what were until recently little-watched party conventions, which have been selecting delegates. Trump has tried to dismiss that -- while shedding dozens of potential votes in Cleveland -- by dismissing the system as "rigged," inferior to his popular vote wins.
To goad Trump, Cruz took to Twitter on Sunday to argue a surge of popular votes behind his campaign, too.
To get that number -- and the five-in-a-row bragging right -- Cruz had to be strategic. First, as he has done consistently, Cruz starts his win cycle with his landslide victory in Utah's March 22 caucuses. He does not mention his loss the same day in Arizona, treating Utah as the second half of a double header, and counting from there.
Second, Cruz's "1.3 mm people" are mostly Wisconsinites. A total of 1,097,521 votes were cast in Wisconsin's April 5 primary; Cruz won 529,768 of them. A total of 177,204 votes were cast in Utah's caucuses. That adds up to 1,274,725 million votes. Rounded up, that's 1.3 million.
Trump and his raucous online supporters claim that no "voters" got to pick delegates in North Dakota, Colorado or Wyoming. Cruz has said that the thousands of Colorado Republicans who voted in the March 1 nonbinding assemblies, and the thousands of Wyoming Republicans who voted in the same day's county conventions, gave him a popular vote win. But the 1.3 million number doesn't even count those votes.
In the short term, Cruz is mocking Trump for losing "voters" in three states that didn't hold traditional elections. In the long term, if Cruz does not break through in this month's East Coast primaries, it's likely that Trump will finish the primary season on June 7 with a lead of more than a million votes -- a plurality, not a majority, but another data point in his browbeating of Republican officials.