- The Washington Times - Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Donald Trump crushed his opponents Tuesday night en route to a major victory in New York’s Republican presidential primary, scoring a needed boost after a string of setbacks and putting himself back in the driver’s seat as the campaign nears the final stretch.

Networks called the race seconds after polls closed at 9 p.m., based on exit polling that showed the billionaire businessman winning a majority of the vote in a state for the first time this year. Ohio Gov. John Kasich was second, with Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas — Mr. Trump’s closest rival in the hunt for delegates — a disappointing third.

Mr. Cruz’s poor showing also ensures he won’t be able to win enough pledged delegates to guarantee victory on the first ballot at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland in July. Mr. Trump’s big victory puts him tantalizingly close to the pathway that would give him the needed 1,237 delegates needed to clinch a win on the first round.

Both parties’ races will stay in the Northeast, with a slate of five contests next week in Connecticut, Delaware, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island and Maryland — territory that should be friendly to Mr. Trump.

“We don’t have much of a race anymore based on what I’m seeing on television,” an ebullient Mr. Trump said at his victory party at his Trump Tower building in Manhattan. “We are really, really rocking.”

With just under 60 percent of the vote counted, Mr. Trump received 60.3 percent of the vote to 24.9 percent for Mr. Kasich and 14.9 percent for Mr. Cruz. Mr. Trump automatically claimed 14 of the state’s 95 delegates up for grabs by winning a clear majority statewide and was likely to win a huge majority of the remaining delegates that are apportioned according to results in the state’s 27 congressional districts.

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New York is home territory for Mr. Trump, who was born in Queens, grew up in the city and has based his massive business empire there. During the two-week campaign leading up to the vote, he defended “New York values,” complained about ill treatment at the hands of the Republican Party, questioned Mr. Kasich’s continued candidacy and mocked Mr. Cruz.

And it worked.

As results rolled in, Mr. Trump was able to claim bragging rights by running up a bigger percentage of the vote in his home state than did either Mr. Cruz, who took 44 percent in Texas, and Mr. Kasich, who won 47 percent of Ohio. The winner tried to hammer home a message that his momentum was unstoppable.

“We don’t have much of a race anymore,” Mr. Trump said in surprisingly brief remarks. He shied away from the brash talk that has characterized his campaign, instead reprising his criticism of Republicans’ nomination process and predicting smooth sailing ahead in the upcoming primaries.

Campaigning in Pennsylvania, Mr. Cruz projected confidence in his campaign, insisting he is the true “outsider” candidates restive Republican voters are looking for this year. He also tried to tie himself to Mr. Sanders, the self-professed Democratic socialist who has shaken up the Democratic race, saying they both share an anti-establishment approach to campaigning that eschews special interests.

Mr. Cruz also embraced President Obama’s 2008 campaign slogan, “Yes we can,” but said it’s time to turn that hope into “another giant leap for mankind.”

SEE ALSO: Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders locked in tight race in New York primary

“Join me on this journey of less talk and more action,” the senator said.

With 1,237 the target number, Mr. Trump entered the evening with 756 convention delegates, Mr. Cruz had 559 and Mr. Kasich trailed far behind at 144. There were 95 delegates at stake in New York, and while Mr. Trump was poised to win the vast majority, it was too early to calculate his exact total, which depends on a complex formula based on results in each of the state’s congressional districts.

Mr. Kasich has long been mathematically eliminated from winning the nomination on the first ballot at the national convention, and analysts said Mr. Cruz is nearing that point.

Indeed, it’s now impossible for him to win enough pledged delegates — meaning those required by party rules to support him — ahead of the convention. That means he and Mr. Kasich are now both forced to pursue victory by trying to sway “unbound” delegates and those already committed to someone else while trying to deny Mr. Trump a first-round win.

Tuesday’s results also dented the momentum Mr. Cruz had built in recent weeks. He scored an easy win this month in Wisconsin, and his formidable campaign organization helped him win delegates at Colorado’s district conventions and Wyoming’s county conventions.

Stung by those results Mr. Trump shook up his campaign in recent weeks, adding longtime Republican Party operatives to his staff. That did not sit well with some of his longtime staffers, including Stuart Jolly, his national field director, who resigned amid the shuffle.

“It’s actually a team of unity; it’s evolving,” Mr. Trump said Tuesday night, accusing the press of misrepresenting what he is doing.

Despite his success on the campaign trail, Republican Party leaders remain spooked by the prospect of Mr. Trump as their nominee.

Indeed, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, Kentucky Republican, seemed this week to be praying for an extended convention that could deny Mr. Trump the nod, saying he wanted to see a second or third ballot.

On Tuesday, he said he had “inartfully” expressed himself but didn’t deny that he was trying to derail the New Yorker’s outsider bid.

“We’ll have a nominee once we get to 1,237 votes. And if that does not happen on the first ballot, there will be another ballot. And I hope that out of this process, no matter when it ends — first, second, third or additional ballots — we’ll have a nominee who will be appealing to the American people and can actually win the election,” Mr. McConnell said.

• Stephen Dinan can be reached at sdinan@washingtontimes.com.

• Seth McLaughlin can be reached at smclaughlin@washingtontimes.com.

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