Donald Trump, his campaign, and his supporters love to brag that he got more votes in the primaries than any GOP candidate in history. There’s just one little fact that they manage to avoid mentioning: He is the highest-vote-getting candidate with the lowest percentage of the vote since 1968, when Ronald Reagan got 38 percent of all of the votes cast after winning California and narrowly had more votes than Richard Nixon. And that was back when every state did not have a primary; there were only 15 primaries, so if all 50 states had featured primaries, Richard Nixon would have been the candidate with the most votes.
Trump simply has more votes because there are more voters. In the 2015-16 GOP primaries, there were almost 30 million GOP votes cast; in 1968, there were slightly more than four million GOP votes cast in the primaries.
Trump won 13,272,465 votes, according to realclearpolitics. But even if you only count the totals amassed by his three closest challengers, Ted Cruz, John Kasich and Marco Rubio, and don’t count any votes amassed by Ben Carson, Jeb Bush, or any other challenger, that totals 15, 272, 613. That means Trump fell far short of getting even a majority of GOP votes, and likely came closer to roughly 44% of the total GOP vote.
That percentage is remarkably weak when compared to other elections since 1952, especially because everyone else dropped out before the last series of GOP primaries on June 7.
Don’t be misled by Trump’s boasting; he is the least popular winning GOP candidate among GOP voters in decades.