Big rally reflects ambition to notch home-state landslide on Tuesday and GOP nomination by June
Donald Trump closed his New York campaign with a rally in Buffalo billed as one of his biggest indoor events, a show of strength reflecting his ambition to notch a home-state landslide on Tuesday and the GOP nomination by June.
Monday’s rally, which drew an estimated 18,000 to 20,000 people, was also a show of defiance at a time when his leading rival in the GOP race, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, has demonstrated he can win over delegates in contests that reward organizational flair over mass appeal, boosting the chances of a contested Republican convention.
Polls show Mr. Trump in reach of winning all 95 of New York’s delegates, a sweep that would enhance his chances of clinching the nomination before the July convention. The real-estate developer has repeatedly bashed party rules that have allowed Mr. Cruz to elect loyal delegates in states won by Mr. Trump. Those pro-Cruz delegates could deprive Mr. Trump of victory at a contested convention.
At the Buffalo rally, Mr. Trump repeated what has become the central message of his New York campaign: taunting Mr. Cruz for criticizing his “New York values” at a debate earlier this year. Mr. Trump defined such values as straight talk, work ethic, and resilience after the Sept. 11 attacks.
“We’re going to show Ted Cruz, who hates New York,” Mr. Trump told a raucous crowd at the First Niagara Center, adding Mr. Cruz had voted against federal aid after superstorm Sandy. “No New Yorker can vote for Ted Cruz.”
The Trump campaign said the candidate’s largest indoor rally before Monday was in September in Dallas, where the crowd was estimated at 15,000, according to media reports. An August outdoor rally in Mobile, Ala., drew an estimated 30,000 people.
Mr. Cruz left New York City Monday to campaign in Maryland before returning to the city for a fundraiser, and was set to appear Tuesday in Pennsylvania, which like Maryland holds it primary on April 26.
Asked in an interview with ABC if he knew his “values” comment had hurt him, Mr. Cruz said he got the phrase from Mr. Trump and blamed one of his favorite targets. “I do know that it has hurt me with the media,” he said. “The media lit their hair on fire.”
Ohio Gov. John Kasich, who is running second in the New York polls, headlined two town-hall meetings upstate Monday as he sought to siphon delegates from Mr. Trump. He also promoted an endorsement from the great-grandson of President Theodore Roosevelt, whose Oyster Bay, N.Y., home he visited recently. “He is by far the best-qualified Republican candidate and the only one who could win the general election,” Theodore Roosevelt IV said.
Any delegate pickups on Mr. Trump’s home turf would help the governor defend his strategy of beating both rivals at a contested convention despite lagging in primary votes. But in a sign Mr. Kasich doesn’t expect big gains Tuesday, he planned to campaign in Pennsylvania and Maryland before the New York polls close.
Mr. Trump could win all of the delegates Tuesday if he receives more than 50% support in 27 congressional districts.
“This is going to be a runaway primary in New York—it’s just a question if we hit 50% everywhere. But it will set us on the path to the nomination,” said Rep. Chris Collins in New York, one of only a few lawmakers on Capitol Hill to endorse Mr. Trump.
Earlier Monday, Mr. Trump pushed back at allegations of racial and religious bias, citing an endorsement from a group of African-American, Sikh and Muslim supporters called the National Diversity Coalition. Mr. Trump appeared with the group in front of his offices and met with them privately.
“He’s best for America and he’s certainly the best for the minority community,” said Steve Parson, a Virginia pastor who attended the event at Trump Tower.
Mr. Trump attracts protesters to nearly all of his events who condemn his proposal to bar Muslim immigrants from the U.S. and his description of Mexican immigrants as rapists and drug dealers. Polls show that he is viewed unfavorably by women and minorities, leading critics to peg him as a weak general election candidate.
Mr. Cruz’s schedule Monday reflected his light footprint in New York, where the evangelical Christians and social conservatives who have fueled his victories are less influential. He met with supporters, raised money behind closed doors and participated in television interviews. In one, he spoke of beating Mr. Trump at state party meetings in Wyoming, Colorado and North Dakota where the convention delegates are elected.
“We have won five in a row, and Donald’s upset, so he’s throwing a fit,” he told ABC.