US Republican presidential candidate Ted Cruz outmuscles Donald Trump in sweep of Colorado delegates

Supporters of US Republican presidential candidate Ted Cruz display signs in Colorado, on April 9, 2016.
Supporters of US Republican presidential candidate Ted Cruz display signs in Colorado, on April 9, 2016. PHOTO: REUTERS

DENVER (BLOOMBERG) - Senator Ted Cruz swept the Republican National Convention delegate selection process in Colorado, displaying a strong grassroots organizational effort and greater popularity among the western state's most committed party activists.

The showing from the junior senator from Texas highlighted billionaire Donald Trump's lack of a robust national political organization, a problem that could doom the Republican front-runner and political novice at the party's national convention in July.

Delegates backing Sen Cruz won all of the slots for participation at the national convention in Cleveland, with the final 13 being selected at the end of a day-long convention on Saturday (April 9) in Colorado Springs. That gave Sen Cruz 34 delegates in the state.

"You all have been a part of something incredible that has happened over the last three weeks," Sen Cruz told more than 5,000 party activists at the convention earlier on Saturday as he reflected on recent victories in Utah and Wisconsin as well as Colorado.

The state convention selections followed 21 delegates who were picked at previously held congressional district conventions. Three Colorado party leaders will also attend the national convention as unpledged delegates.

While Sen Cruz showed the benefit of a traditional grassroots organization in Colorado, Democrat Hillary Clinton had an establishment victory of sorts in Wyoming, even as she lost the state's Democratic caucus to Senator Bernie Sanders, 56 per cent to 44 per cent.

The Vermont senator had been expected to dominate the rural, mostly white western state, and Mrs Clinton did not campaign there.

But Sen Sanders's margin of victory was less than in his recent lopsided caucus triumphs in Washington state, Alaska and elsewhere. The candidates evenly split the state's 14 delegates and Mrs Clinton continues to enjoy a sizable delegate lead.

While Sen Sanders reflected on his momentum during a rally in New York, Clinton campaign manager Robby Mook, in an e-mailed statement, said his candidate had "outperformed" expectations in Wyoming by fighting Sen Sanders to a delegate tie.

In Colorado, the balloting continued a troubling trend for Mr Trump, whose lack of a robust campaign infrastructure has left him vulnerable to losses in states with more complex delegate selection systems.

Sen Cruz, as well as much of the party's establishment, is trying to deny Mr Trump enough delegates for a first-ballot nomination in Cleveland. As of late on Saturday, Mr Trump led the race with 743 delegates, according to Associated Press estimates.

Sen Cruz had 532 including the weekend's pickups, while Ohio Governor John Kasich lagged far behind at 143.

"Republicans are uniting behind our campaign because they want a leader with real solutions who will bring back jobs, freedom, and security," Sen Cruz said in a statement.

The Colorado delegates are a small fraction of the 1,237 needed to win. Yet with the likelihood of a contested national convention on the rise, a handful of delegates could make a difference, and the competition for their selection has taken on much greater significance than traditionally has been the case.

Instead of holding a statewide primary or caucus like most states, Colorado employs a series of local, congressional- district and statewide gatherings where people compete to be delegates. That months-long process wrapped up on Saturday.

Sen Cruz spoke in Colorado before continuing on to Las Vegas for an appearance before the Republican Jewish Coalition. Neither Mr Trump nor Mr Kasich attended Colorado's convention. Both sent surrogates to pitch their messages.

Mr Trump, the New York real estate developer, has never sought elected office and is short on grassroots organization.

This week he gave a bigger role on his team to political consultant Paul Manafort. The veteran operative helped manage the 1976 convention floor for then President Gerald Ford against challenger Ronald Reagan, the last time Republicans entered a convention with no candidate having clinched the nomination.

The next Republican contest is in New York state on April 19. Mr Trump is heavily favored to win in his home state, potentially with over 50 per cent of the the vote.