After a string of losses in places like Colorado and Wisconsin, Republican frontrunner Donald Trump had a great night last night in his home state of New York, handily beating rivals Ted Cruz and John Kasich and exceeding his pre-election polling numbers. With 98 percent of precincts reporting early Wednesday morning, Trump has 60.5 percent of the popular vote and will take substantially all of New York’s 95 convention delegates.
No one expected that Donald Trump would lose New York. Few expected Ted Cruz to do well. He did not. Cruz garnered only 15 percent of the vote and no delegates.
Many expected, however, that John Kasich would do better than the 25 percent of the vote and three delegates that he won.
Trump’s victory sets the table for a likely string of victories next week in Connecticut, Delaware, Maryland, Pennsylvania and Rhode Island. One hundred seventy two of the 392 delegates that Trump still needs in order to win the nomination outright are on the line and three of those five states are winner-take-all.
With New York now of record, Texas senator Ted Cruz joins Ohio governor John Kasich in being mathematically eliminated from a first ballot victory at the Republican convention in Cleveland this July.
Donald Trump is now the only GOP candidate who can win the nomination on the first ballot.
And so the real jockeying begins.
It will come down to June 7 and the final GOP primaries of the season in Montana, New Jersey, New Mexico, South Dakota and – most importantly – California.
California is the big prize with its 172 delegates. It’s a winner-take-all state but its ‘winner-take-all by Congressional district,’ meaning that if a candidate wins a majority in a district, he takes all of that district’s delegates.
The farther west you go, the better Ted Cruz does. It’s likely that he will win considerably more than 15 percent of the vote in California and take a significant percentage of California’s delegates.
Though he cannot win the nomination outright even with a sweep of California, Cruz could do well enough there and in the other 14 remaining states to deny Donald Trump the 1,237 delegates needed for a first ballot win.
If Cruz is successful in that effort, it will boil down to the so-called “ground game.” Here Cruz has a distinct advantage over Trump. Cruz is well-organized at the state level. Trump has been running what amounts to a national campaign and has little in the way of state-level assets.
If the GOP convention goes to a second ballot, Ted Cruz will begin cashing in the markers he has accumulated in meetings and conversations at the state level with delegates who become unbound on second and subsequent convention ballots.
It’s a very steep climb for Ted Cruz. But it’s not going to be easy for Donald Trump either.
Oh, and the Democrats voted in New York Wednesday, too. Hillary Clinton won handily. Only FBI director James Comey can stop her now.