Donald Trump, the candidate of bombast, braggadocio, and personal attacks, was suddenly subdued.
He stood before a hometown crowd in Manhattan’s Grand Hyatt hotel. He never mentioned his chief rival, Sen. Ted Cruz, by name, instead extolling him for extolling the “New York values” he casually dismissed in a January debate.
And he talked about how those “New York values” are central to the theme of his campaign.
“In our darkest moments as a city, we showed the world the very, very best in terms of bravery, heart and soul of America,” Trump said, in reference to the September 11, 2001, terror attacks on US soil.
“These are the values we need to make America great again.”
Trump is solidifying his position with just days to go until the consequential New York primary, as the GOP frontrunner is set up to romp through the state.
With the delegate-rich state of New York set to hold its primary on Tuesday, Trump holds a monumental, near-32 point lead in the RealClearPolitics average of several polls.
For Trump, New York could hardly be more important coming off a double-digit loss to Cruz in Wisconsin’s primary earlier this month.
So far in polls, Trump has maintained above a 50% level of support there — key to securing the treasure trove of delegates the Empire State provides.
Rules in the state allow for delegates to be allocated proportionally if the winner finishes below 50%. Fourteen of the state’s 95 delegates are allocated by statewide results, while the remaining 81 are awarded on a three-per-district for the state’s 27 congressional districts.
So if Trump were to hit 50% in each congressional district, he would walk away with all 95 delegates.
Should Trump romp through the state Tuesday, he’d need to secure roughly 53% of the remaining delegates to clinch the nomination before the July convention. A resounding victory would restore Trump’s momentum, giving him a better chance of locking up the nomination and avoiding a contested convention.
But should he lose chunk of delegates by finishing below 50% throughout the state and in various congressional districts, Trump’s rivals would be more likely to stop him from hitting the needed 1,237 delegates before the July convention.
“I think Donald Trump has basically hit the point where if he does not get over 50% and all 95 delegates, he has underperformed,” New York-based GOP strategist Evan Siegfried told Business Insider.
Siegfried said last week that the most important storyline to follow coming out of the Wisconsin primary and into the Empire State was just how large Trump’s win would be.
Both Cruz and John Kasich, the Ohio governor, have campaigned throughout the state in hopes of picking up delegates by keeping Trump below 50% in various congressional districts.
But nearly two weeks’ worth of campaigning have done little to dent Trump’s strong numbers in his home state.
“At this point, both Cruz and Kasich have worked in New York and they’re saying, ‘Listen, Trump is likely to come away with 60% of the vote and all 95 delegates, and this is a battle of attrition. Why are we going to waste our time and money here when we could go to closer states, or states that are closer, and have a better return on investment?'” Siegfried said.
He added that “everything stayed the status quo” in the New York GOP primary race during the past week.
“He was going to win New York, so any claims that the momentum was shifting one way or the other just really aren’t there,” Siegfried said. “The people who are against Trump and for Trump have not really seen much movement either way.”
Trump’s even fared well in an area where he has rarely seen success along the campaign trail — with endorsements of local publications.
This week, Trump received the endorsement of both the New York Post and the New York Observer. (Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, is the Observer’s publisher.) The New York Daily News, another major local publication, endorsed Kasich, who’s spent increased time railing on both Trump and Cruz as he campaigns throughout the state.
Despite Trump’s strong numbers and wide array of support, Siegfried said there are Republicans in New York who don’t like Trump. However, they feel no love toward Cruz, Trump’s main competitor nationally.
Polls have shown that Cruz has failed to consolidate the anti-Trump support. A Wall Street Journal/NBC New York poll released Friday afternoon found Cruz in third place with just 16% support. Kasich appears to have vaulted into the clear second-place slot behind Trump.
Cruz’s standing in New York was evident during his speech at Thursday night’s New York GOP gala, where he was practically ignored.
“They do not feel any love toward Ted Cruz because of his ‘New York values’ comment,” Siegfried said. “That really damaged him with people here.”
But New York Republicans have been cold toward Cruz long before that remark in a January debate that nevertheless continues to follow Cruz on the campaign trail.
“He stood against both,” Siegfried said. “And that effort, every New York Republican came out in favour of both. Ted Cruz stood in the way of both. That’s what really burned him. He can go around and say New York Values and could be talking about liberalism, but with New York Republicans, that’s not a defence of Ted Cruz’s record when it comes to New York.”
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