Donald Trump’s losing streak is about to end where his wild roller coaster of a campaign began — his home state of New York.
The billionaire is poised for a ringing victory that will take the edge off a brutal month of controversy and soaring unpopularity. It’s a chance for Trump to rewrite a campaign narrative that seemed to get away from him — and will likely be the first triumph in a cascade of victories across the Northeast over the next week.
Even as champagne corks are set to pop at Trump’s victory party in his eponymous tower on Fifth Avenue, there’s a crucial subplot that backers of Ted Cruz and John Kasich will be watching intently: Can Trump crack 50 percent support?
Trump’s rivals have spent weeks working to keep the mogul below that threshold, which would wrest a handful of delegates away from Trump’s grasp. As the GOP nomination fight increasingly becomes a seminar in complicated delegate math, limiting Trump’s support on his home turf would amount to a victory of sorts.
Trump’s allies are hopeful that he can score 80 to 85 of New York’s 95 national convention delegates. Hitting that level of dominance will require Trump to hit 50 percent support statewide — earning a guaranteed pot of 14 delegates — as well as cracking 50 percent in nearly all of New York’s 27 congressional districts, a more difficult feat.
New York’s districts vary wildly — from heavily Democratic districts in Brooklyn, Manhattan and the Bronx that could turn on just a few hundred Republican votes to GOP-heavy Staten Island, as well as conservative-leaning upstate and on Long Island. Full results from each could take hours to compute.
Trump on Tuesday said it would be a “great tribute” if he’s able to get more than half the vote in New York. He also laid out what would make for a solid delegate haul.
“I think if I got 75 delegates, that would be a considered a great night, maybe I can get more. … I think anything over 70 delegates would be really a great night,” Trump said in an interview with WABC Radio’s “Election Central with Rita Cosby.” He added, “I’ve won the fight, except for the final two. … So we have to finish it off.”
Across-the-board dominance in New York would keep alive Trump’s narrow chance to reach 1,237 delegates and clinch the GOP nomination without a bruising multi-round convention. Cruz has been running the table at lower-profile, local delegate contests in an attempt to stack the convention with loyalists, should it take more than one vote to resolve, so Trump is feverishly working to score a first-ballot victory.
Whether he clears 50 percent or not, the win at home would be validating for Trump. The last time the mogul tasted victory in a primary was after his romp in Arizona on March 22. After a brief nod toward party unity, Trump has spent recent weeks in open conflict with Republican leaders around the country, accusing them of rigging the convention process against him.
He’s pointed to Cruz’s dominant performance in delegate battles — especially in states where Trump won big victories and states that chose to hold no presidential nominating contest — to argue that the party’s process undermines the popular will.
The real estate mogul has also been coping with internal turmoil with his campaign operation as he tries to bring more experienced hands on board who have been clashing with his original skeletal staff.
Another shakeup took place this past weekend, when Trump told senior staffers that he wants his recent hires Paul Manafort and Rick Wiley to take the reins in upcoming states.
The personnel changes have been particularly alienating for Trump’s campaign manager, Corey Lewandowski, who has proven to be a volatile figure. One of Lewandowski’s loyalists, national field director Stuart Jolly, resigned on Monday amid the dramatic changes.
Manafort and Wiley are expected to be critical figures as Trump tries to ensure that delegates — including the ones he racks up Tuesday night — are loyal to him in a contested convention, which could be a struggle. New York’s convention delegation is chosen by party leaders in each county and congressional district, as well as by members of the New York state GOP. Though Trump has allies and institutional support scattered across the state, party elders and insiders seeking to attend the convention could conflict with his preferred delegate candidates.
None of it matters if Trump clinches the GOP nomination ahead of the convention. And that’s possible if he posts strong finishes in New York and the five states that vote next week — Maryland, Pennsylvania, Connecticut, Rhode Island and Delaware — as well as New Jersey and California in early June.
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