Cruz Ventures Into the Bronx in Delegate Quest

Cruz Ventures Into the Bronx in Delegate Quest
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NEW YORK—Fresh off a convincing victory in Wisconsin, Ted Cruz found himself in a “Chino-Latino” restaurant Wednesday in the Soundview neighborhood of the Bronx.

It was no hero’s welcome for the Texas senator, who was greeted by a handful of protesters unhappy with his views on immigration, the policing of Muslim neighborhoods, and even climate change. “He’s not welcome here, it’s that simple,” said one activist. 

But Cruz, who defeated Trump by 13 percentage points the night before, was undeterred. With New York’s primary ahead and delegates to be awarded by congressional district, the conservative lawmaker is determined to pick up every and any voter he can in his mission to deny Trump the 1,237 delegates needed to clinch the GOP nomination. 

That means venturing into the solidly blue Bronx, where there may be a few Republicans Cruz can persuade to help him scoop up a district or two. The RealClearPolitics polling average finds Trump leading in his home state by 31 points, with Cruz running behind John Kasich. But in this phase of the race, the emphasis is not so much on winning states as winning delegates, prompting trips to areas that would seem unfavorable to him.

Cruz is also in a phase of his campaign where he is pitching himself as a uniter of the Republican Party by virtue of being the only candidate left capable of beating Trump in more than a few places. Cruz has become the main vehicle for the GOP’s anti-Trump effort. That effort has a bit more wind in its sails after the Wisconsin win. The momentum is vital, especially since the competition now turns to states that are more of a natural fit for real estate tycoon and much less so for Cruz.

With this in mind, Cruz tried to show he can campaign in areas hostile to him and his message. He came to Sabrosura, a restaurant on Westchester Avenue in the Bronx that serves a fusion of Latin-American and Asian cuisine. The area is heavily Hispanic, and represented by the Puerto Rican-born U.S. Rep. Jose Serrano. 

Cruz came to the Bronx at the invitation of state Sen. Ruben Diaz, a conservative Democrat and a pastor who said he has extended similar invitations to other presidential candidates. Earlier in the day, however, Diaz’s son, Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr., slammed Cruz at a conference in support of Hillary Clinton. “Ted Cruz is a hypocrite. He not only offended New Yorkers, he offended Bronxites, and now he’s here today in New York and in the Bronx looking for money and votes,” Diaz said, according to the New York Observer. 

In 2014, Cruz came under fire when, talking about immigration and border security and opposition to New York Sen. Chuck Schumer, he joked that Manhattan might be concerned about securing its border with the Bronx. This campaign season Cruz attacked Trump for having “New York values.”

Those comments have come back to haunt him as he campaigns in the city. Cruz hasn’t reversed himself, but has refined the message slightly. “The people of New York know exactly what those values are,” he told reporters here. “They are the values of liberal New York politicians.” He cited Hillary Clinton, Andrew Cuomo, Charlie Rangel, Bill de Blasio, Eliot Spitzer and Anthony Weiner as examples.

Asked about his large deficit in New York polling, Cruz pointed to his late surge in Wisconsin. “It can change, and can change quickly,” he said.

Before addressing the press, Cruz met with Diaz and several neighborhood pastors who, he said, agreed with his assessment.  In New York’s closed primary, however, registered Democrat Diaz will not be able to cast a vote for Cruz or any Republican on April 19.

Cruz invoked the immigrant story of his Cuban-American father, who came to the United States when he was 18 and got a job washing dishes at a restaurant not so different, the candidate said, from the one in which he was standing. 

The Hispanic community, he said, has been hurt by the “Obama-Clinton” economy. When asked a question in Spanish, Cruz said he understood but grew up speaking “Spanglish.” Still, he mustered a few lines in Spanish, switching in and out to English. “In this Hispanic community, we have shared values. The values that resonate in our community are faith, family and patriotism,” he said. “The most powerful value in the Hispanic community is the American dream. We are a community filled with optimism.”

The emphasis on “we” and “our” was notable for a candidate who has not focused of late on his evangelical roots and immigrant history. He has been among the most conservative candidates when it comes to immigration reform, hardening his stances this cycle in light of Trump’s messaging.

“Donald has no solutions to the problems we are facing. He likes to yell and scream and insult,” Cruz said. “My top priority as president will be bringing jobs back to America.”

Cruz’s time in the Bronx was brief, and the stop drew more reporters than potential voters. On Thursday, the senator is headed for appearances in upstate New York.

Caitlin Huey-Burns is a national political reporter for RealClearPolitics. She can be reached at chueyburns@realclearpolitics.com. Follow her on Twitter @CHueyBurnsRCP.

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