Ted Cruz is not going to win the New York primary, and if Wednesday’s event in the Bronx is any indication, he’s not going to have a lot of fun campaigning for it.
But he’s not wasting his time by campaigning in the home of “New York values.” He doesn’t need to win here – or even come all that close – to significantly damage Donald Trump’s hopes of winning the Republican presidential nomination.
His key goal, because of New York’s unusual delegate-allocation rules, is to keep Trump under 50% of the vote.
Fourteen of New York’s delegates will be allocated based on the statewide result, and 81 delegates will be determined by winners in congressional districts (three per district in each of 27 districts).
For the state and for each district, delegate allocation will be proportional if no candidate gets over 50% of the vote, but it will become winner take all for a candidate who gets over 50%.
Trump’s path to clinching the nomination with 1,237 delegates is dependent on a blowout win in New York, in which he breaks 50% statewide and in most congressional districts, winning nearly all the delegates. If Cruz can get enough votes to keep Trump under 50% statewide and in many congressional districts, he’ll make it very difficult for Trump to walk into Cleveland with a majority of the overall delegates.
Current polling has Trump over 50% in New York, but not by a lot. A Monmouth University poll released last week had Trump leading with 52%, followed by John Kasich at 25% and Cruz at 17%.
Looking at numbers like that, Cruz would be crazy to think he could win New York. But he could very reasonably think he might do just a little better and stop Trump from getting over 50.
It’s reason enough for Cruz to put up with two weeks of Bronx cheers from New York’s press and most of its voters.