Trump Sweeps New York
NEW YORK— Donald Trump swept to victory in his home state Tuesday night, outperforming the pre-election polls, burying his two remaining Republican rivals, and putting himself on a path to enter the GOP convention in Cleveland with far more delegates than any other candidate.
With more than 98 percent of precincts reporting early Wednesday, Trump led with 60.5 percent of the vote, giving him claim to nearly all of the state's 95 GOP delegates.
His briefer-than-usual victory speech at Trump Tower was vintage Donald: short on specifics, and long on adjectives—“amazing” and “incredible” are two of his favorites—but as the primary season enters the home stretch, Trump started to sound Tuesday night like an actual Republican. He referred to Texas Sen. Ted Cruz and “Senator Cruz,” instead of “Lyin' Ted,” and used Ohio Gov. John Kasich’s honorific as well.
Trump retained his trademark defiance, however, when talking about the Republicans’ arcane system of awarding delegates. “It’s a crooked system,” he said. “It’s a system that’s rigged.”
Kasich was well behind Trump with 25 percent of the vote, followed by Cruz, with 14.5 percent. The GOP front-runner appeared at the building that bears his name shortly after the polls closed at 9 p.m. Eastern time, in the same venue where he announced his candidacy 10 months ago. Frank Sinatra’s “New York, New York” blared on the sound system as Trump made his way to the podium. He won two-thirds of the vote, he noted, from “the people who know me the best.”
Trump voted Tuesday morning at a synagogue in Manhattan, the first time he has ever been able to vote for himself in an election. This win halts the momentum of chief rival Cruz, whose winning streak in recent primaries and state conventions exposed Trump’s organizational and managerial weaknesses. It also tested the limits of the anti-Trump forces, who went all in on Wisconsin two weeks ago, but ceded New York to its hometown son.
Trump’s New York victory comes amid shake-ups in the campaign. The GOP front-runner promoted convention manager Paul Manafort, who met with congressional supporters on Capitol Hill Tuesday. He also hired former RNC Political Director Rick Wiley and veteran GOP attorney William McGinley, as well as additional communications staffers, and effectively sidelined controversial campaign manager Corey Lewandowski.
“We’re expanding the campaign,” Manafort said Tuesday night. “[Trump] is recognizing this is a phase we have to go through. The convention is another phase, and frankly, we get to the general election, it’s a whole different phase.”
Manafort noted Trump has gained valuable experience from months on the campaign trail. “He’s out there to win and will do what it takes to win.”
The adjustments within the campaign mark a shift in strategy to prepare for a protracted nominating fight. Trump has railed against the rules of the GOP process, but the staff changes also acknowledge the importance of them. Some strategists say the moves signal a willingness to run a more traditional campaign to secure the nomination and unite the party. But others warn that it could be temporary, and that the New York win and additional victories could send him back to his old ways.
The changes were made after a string of difficult weeks for Trump, including a defeat in Wisconsin and losing out on delegates in Colorado and Wyoming conventions to the more organized Cruz campaign.
Over the past several days, Trump has tried to convert such losses into an asset, railing against the RNC and GOP primary rules that he says disenfranchise voters. Polls show a majority of Republicans agree with Trump that the candidate with the most wins and delegates by the time of the party convention in July should receive the nomination.
Rival campaigns and Republican officials argue that the rules have long been in place and are not designed to disadvantage Trump. In fact, some analysts have argued that the rules have, on the whole, favored Trump. Before New York voted, the billionaire businessman had won about 46 percent of the bound delegates while only winning about 37 percent of the overall popular vote.
The primary calendar is also turning in Trump’s favor, with a slew of Northeastern and mid-Atlantic states hosting contests over the next few weeks. Trump’s New York win is likely to propel him into the coming races where he can win more delegates and rebound from a rough past few weeks.
Primaries in Pennsylvania, Maryland, Connecticut, Delaware, and Rhode Island on Tuesday favor Trump demographically, and the rules in those states could help him rack up delegates. If Trump wins Delaware, Pennsylvania and Maryland, he’ll automatically win 47 delegates plus three delegates for each of the 13 congressional districts he wins in Connecticut and Maryland.
Cruz and Kasich will likely try to peel away delegates in various congressional districts as well as in Rhode Island (a proportional state) and Connecticut (where the rules are complex, but some of the delegates will likely be allocated proportionally).
Cruz could try to bounce back by winning the May 3 Indiana primary, where demographics make him the favorite and delegate rules favor the winner (the statewide winner gets 30 delegates and the winner of each district gets three delegates). But Indiana is still tough to predict – there has been no recent public polling there, and Cruz will likely be coming off a string of losses in the Northeast.
The calendar after Indiana is a mix, with some states favoring Trump, some favoring Cruz and others with a high degree of uncertainty. So far, Cruz has done well in Western states, which is a good sign in winner-take-all contests in Nebraska (May 10), South Dakota and Montana (June 7). Trump has a clear demographic advantage in West Virginia (May 10) and will likely do well in winner-take-all New Jersey – which borders his home state.
But in a number of states – Washington, Oregon and New Mexico – there is little to no polling. In California – the largest remaining delegate prize – there is significant uncertainty. Trump is leading in the polls, but in many contests Cruz has made last-minute gains by winning late-deciding voters. This all adds up to considerable uncertainty about Trump’s chances of assembling the delegates necessary to win the nomination on the first ballot at the convention in Cleveland.
Cruz campaigned in California last week and spent election night in Philadelphia. The campaign is focused on denying Trump the nomination by a significant margin, while organizing delegates to win on a second ballot in a contested convention. Cruz has already chalked up the New York loss as a simple home state win for Trump and believes he can overtake Trump and regain momentum by next month with contests in Indiana, Nebraska and the Pacific Northwest.
Mitt Romney has weighed in more proactively for Cruz, even suggesting Kasich should leave the race. "If they are both going at it aggressively until the very end, then I think Trump gets it on the first ballot," Romney told “The David Gregory Show.” Romney came out strongly against Trump in March, urging Republicans to support Cruz and Kasich in areas they could win. But Kasich hasn’t been able to bring in delegates since winning his home state of Ohio, and the Cruz campaign believes the governor is taking away votes and helping Trump. The Kasich campaign has accused the Never Trump movement of abandoning its candidate and favoring Cruz.
But Cruz faces difficult terrain in the coming weeks. His brand of conservatism doesn’t necessarily play well along the Eastern Seaboard. The Texas senator made things worse for himself in the Empire State with an unforced error in a January debate when he sneered at “New York values.” Trump pounced on it the night Cruz said it, and on Tuesday, New York Republicans punished him for it.
Trump turned the tables on the values critique by referencing the city’s response to the September 11th terrorist attacks. He also criticized Cruz for votes against a 9/11 first-responders bill and funding for victims of Hurricane Sandy. In the waning days of the New York campaign, Trump flubbed the reference in a Buffalo rally Monday evening, referring to 7/11 instead of 9/11. But by then it was far too late for Cruz or Kasich to capitalize.
Cruz and Kasich focused on liberal enclaves of the state to win delegates. Since most of the delegates in New York are awarded per congressional district, the two campaigns sought to bring anti-Trump Republicans out for them.
Bolstered by his second-place finish in New York, Kasich believes he will do better than Cruz in similar contests next week and help keep delegates from Trump. The Kasich campaign also insists its candidate’s general election viability will help win over delegates at the convention.
Meanwhile, Cruz has pitched himself as a Republican uniter while arguing that a Trump nomination would cost the party seats from Capitol Hill to statehouses. Many GOP professionals agree with him, but Tuesday night belonged to the man from New York, who now looks at a looming landscape that also seems to be potential Trump country.