Donald Trump won a landslide victory in the New York primary, beating rivals John Kasich and Ted Cruz by a wide margin. This was not a surprise, as Real Clear Politics had tabulated all of the recent polls that showed Trump with an average lead of 30.3 percent over Kasich, and 35 percent over Cruz.
As of this writing, it is unknown how New York’s 95 delegates will be distributed — state party rules stipulate that they are proportioned based upon how the candidates do in each of the state’s congressional districts. But given the margin of Trump’s victory, he will take the lion’s share.
New York Primary Win = New Trump Campaign Message
What will like soon become apparent, however, is a change in message from the Trump campaign: that it is time for Ted Cruz to drop out of the race.
Why? After Trump’s blowout victory, it is now mathematically impossible for Cruz to reach the 1,237 delegates to garner the Republican nomination after New York — according to Real Clear Politics, Cruz entered the New York contest with 559 delegates, and there are only 674 available in the remaining contests. So even if Cruz were to sweep past Trump in all of the remaining contests, which is highly unlikely, he would come to the Republican convention with 1,233 delegates — just four short of a majority.
So Donald Trump and his campaign team will now have a new soundbite to bring to the states that have not yet held their primaries: because Ted Cruz cannot win, he should drop out now to unite the party behind Donald Trump as it prepares for the general election.
It is easy to see pro-Trump media like the Drudge Report and Breitbart News, as well as Sean Hannity of Fox News, trumpeting this soundbite as well.
This message could hit home with voters in the states that hold primaries next week, on April 26: Connecticut (28 delegates), Delaware (16), Maryland (38), Pennsylvania (71), and Rhode Island (19). Not only are these states in the northeast, a region that favors Trump, but their proximity to New York will also help his message to ring clearer in this region, making it easier for him to win. More Trump victories would thus secure a feeling of inevitability across the nation by the time the last states, including New Jersey (51, winner-take-all) and California (172), vote on June 7.
Indeed, Trump in his victory speech tonight stated that Cruz is “just about mathematically eliminated.”
Donald Trump Benefits From Voter’s Lack of Understanding
But perhaps the most important reason why Donald Trump will use this soundbite is because most voters do not understand the nominating process. Most are likely to believe that the path to the nomination is secured by the number of voters and primary wins, not the number of delegates that a candidate garners in each contest, as Republican Party rules state.
This is probably why Trump highlights the fact that he has “millions” more votes than his rivals.
This may also explain in part why Trump has been harping on what he and Trump-friendly media call “voter-less primaries” in states like Colorado, North Dakota, and Wyoming that don’t have primaries, just state conventions which pick the delegates.
On Monday, for instance, National Review documented how the increasingly pro-Trump Drudge Report declared that Cruz had won “another voter-less victory” in Wyoming.
Why a Trump New York Victory Does Not Mean the End for Cruz
In spite of the rhetoric, however, Trump’s New York win does not mean the end for Cruz. This is because Cruz’s apparent goal for some time now, though unstated, has been to keep Trump from reaching the 1,237 delegates needed before the convention.
Here’s why: in the first round of delegate votes at the July GOP convention, delegates are bound to support whomever they are pledged to. For instance, all 99 Florida delegates, which Trump won in the winner-take-all primary on March 15, must vote for him on the first ballot. The same is true of Arizona’s 58 delegates, which Trump won in that state’s primary on March 22.
But if Donald Trump does not get to 1,237 delegates in the first round, then the delegates become unbound, and so can vote for anyone. This is why Corey Lewandowski, Trump’s campaign manager, complained to Chris Wallace on the April 17 Fox News Sunday that according to the Florida Republican Party rules, the state chairman of that party, a supporter of Marco Rubio, gets to name 30 of the 99 delegates.
It’s also why Cruz has been courting Arizona delegates to support him behind the scenes. As the Washington Examiner reported on April 4, Cruz, who has been “exploiting deep opposition to Trump among grassroots Republicans,” may persuade enough Arizona delegates to change their votes and support him after the first round.
On the other hand, the Albuquerque Journal reported that Trump’s campaign succeeded in pressuring the New Mexico Republican Party to extend the deadline for delegate applicants by two weeks.
“This is truly Trump,” the Journal quoted a Cruz supporter. “Rather than learning how the process works, he cries and complains to get the process changed because he doesn’t like it.”
So while Donald Trump’s road to victory becomes much easier after his New York triumph, it is by no means over for Ted Cruz — assuming he can keep Trump from getting to 1,237 delegates between now and June 7.
What do you think? Is Donald Trump’s nomination now inevitable? Or should Ted Cruz keep fighting?
[Photo by Matthew Cavanaugh/Getty Images]