Donald Trump stopped just shy of declaring himself the Republican presidential nominee after his blowout win in his home state of New York on Tuesday night.
“We don’t have much of a race anymore, based on what I’m seeing on television,” an uncharacteristically subdued Trump told a crowd of his supporters gathered at Trump Tower in Manhattan. “Sen. Cruz is just about mathematically eliminated.”
Trump’s math isn’t wrong, but it requires some qualification. Cruz, his nearest rival, had secured 559 delegates going into the New York primary, where he appears poised to leave empty-handed. So Cruz could win all of the 674 delegates left to be awarded in the remaining contests and fall just short of the 1,237 needed to clinch the GOP nomination.
But that hardly means Cruz has been “eliminated.” Trump’s Empire State romp — he’s on track to win 60% of the vote, more than double the margin of second-place finisher Ohio Gov. John Kasich — puts him in a position to sew up the Republican nomination before the national party convention in July.
If Trump sweeps contests next Tuesday in Connecticut, Delaware, Maryland, Pennsylvania, and Rhode Island, he’ll need to win roughly half of the remaining delegates to secure the nomination. That is far from a foregone conclusion.
Trump knows he may fall short of that threshold before the balloting begins at the convention in Cleveland. So he’s been arguing that a plurality of delegates should be sufficient to earn him the prize. Any other outcome, he contends, would amount to denying the will of the party’s voters. “We’ve won millions of more votes than Sen. Cruz, millions and millions of more votes than Gov. Kasich,” he said during his brief victory remarks on Tuesday.
And he took an extended, albeit veiled, dig at the Cruz campaign’s recent success at out-hustling his own operation in the delegate selection process — work that will drain critical support from Trump if the convention goes to a second ballot. “Nobody should take delegates and claim victory unless they get those delegates with voters and voting. And that’s what’s going to happen, and you watch, because the people aren’t going to stand for it,” Trump said. “It’s a crooked system. It’s a system that’s rigged, and we’re going to go back to the old way. It’s called, ‘You vote and you win.’”
The gripe about the rules was an odd note on which to end a victory speech. But the address was also restrained in a way that suggests that Trump is taking a few notes from his recently professionalized campaign team, one that’s now racing to keep Cruz from snatching the crown.