Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks at the California Republican Party 2016 Convention in Burlingame, Calif., Friday, April 29, 2016. Jeff Chiu / AP Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks at the California Republican Party 2016 Convention in Burlingame, Calif., Friday, April 29, 2016. Jeff Chiu / AP

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks at the California Republican Party 2016 Convention in Burlingame, Calif., Friday, April 29, 2016. Jeff Chiu / AP

Chris Nichols
By Chris Nichols May 2, 2016

Donald Trump’s claim about receiving the most votes ever in Republican primaries is False … for now

Donald Trump’s march to the GOP nomination picked up steam last week, with dominant primary victories in the northeast.

After the wins, several news outlets reported that the New York billionaire could break the record for most Republican primary votes in history — if Trump scores big in Indiana, New Jersey and California. Those states have yet to vote.

Trump, apparently not wanting to wait, declared he’s already achieved the voting record.

"In the history of Republican primaries, I’ve gotten the most votes in the history of the Republican party," Trump said during his speech on Friday, April 29 at the California Republican Party Convention south of San Francisco.

Trump went on to say he’s broken the record without needing to wait for big states like California.

Was Trump right? Had he already collected the most primary votes in history? We set out on a fact check.

Our research

Eric Ostermeier, a political science professor at the University of Minnesota and founder of the number-crunching blog Smart Politics, has taken a look at the data.

"He is on pace to break the record, but he hasn’t yet," Ostermeier told PolitiFact California. "I’ve seen no possible configuration of numbers that show he’s already broken it."

Ostermeier placed Trump’s primary vote total at about 10 million so far. That’s still short of the 10.8 million votes George W. Bush received in the 2000 GOP primaries.

If one counts both primaries and caucuses, Trump would still be short of Bush’s overall tally, the professor said. Bush’s total is considered closer to 12 million if both types of elections are counted, he said.

Ostermeier estimated Trump would likely achieve the primary vote record if he earns a strong win in California’s primary, where he could pick up more than a million additional primary votes. He said Trump’s large vote totals can be attributed to the relatively close match-up he’s had with Cruz late into the primary season.

Several news articles, including by the Washington Post and Politico, used primary vote totals logged by RealClearPolitics.com. Its data show Trump has yet to break the record.

Trump’s campaign did not respond to our request for comment.

Our ruling

Donald Trump said he’s already earned the most Republican primary votes in history.

Experts who track this say Trump is on pace to break the record, but is still shy by about 800,000 votes. They predicted a strong victory in California --- more than a month from now -- could hand Trump the milestone.

We rate Trump’s claim False … for now.

UPDATE: About one month after PolitiFact California rated Donald Trump’s "most votes in history" claim on April 29, 2016 as "False … for now," the vote totals have changed. Trump now appears to have broken the all-time record for most votes in a GOP presidential primary. That’s according to Eric Ostermeier, a political science professor at the University of Minnesota and founder of the number-crunching blog Smart Politics. Ostermeier told us on June 1, 2016 that Trump’s victory in the Washington primary on May 24, 2016 put him over the top. The rating on his April 29 claim remains the same because we judge statements based on the data available at the time. Trump got ahead of himself again during a speech in Sacramento, also on June 1, 2016, where he said he’s broken the GOP presidential primary record "by millions" of votes. We rated that claim "False again … for now." Ostermeier predicted Trump could smash the record by millions following the June 7 primary in California, New Jersey and other states. We'll be watching.

https://www.sharethefacts.co/share/082e07f8-9846-4ffa-b768-1719cae2ac47

Our Sources

Donald Trump, speech at California Republican Party Convention, April 29, 2016

Interview, Eric Ostermeier, University of Minnesota professor of political science and founder of Minnesota and Smart Politics, May 2, 2016. 

New York Post, "Donald Trump could amass most primary votes in GOP history," April 27, 2016

Politico, "Trump passes Romney’s popular vote total, likely to break GOP record," April 26, 2016

Washington Post "Trump will get more GOP primary votes than anyone in history (because more people are voting)," April 27, 2016

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Donald Trump’s claim about receiving the most votes ever in Republican primaries is False … for now

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