Conservative forces working against Republican presidential front-runner Donald Trump in New York aren't expecting him to lose the state's April 19 primary—they're just working to keep him from getting 50 percent of the state's vote.
Of the 95 Republican delegates on offer in the Empire State, 81 are allocated according to voting in each of New York's 27 Congressional districts. A candidate winning 50 percent of the vote in a single district earns 3 delegates.
The remaining at-large delegates are tied to a “winner take most” formula in which a candidate receiving more than 50 percent of the vote gets all 14. Trump is above that threshold in recent polls, receiving between 52 percent and 56 percent of the vote, according to RealClearPolitics. Texas Senator Ted Cruz and Ohio Governor John Kasich are jostling for second, each with about 20 percent of the likely total.
Trump could conceivably win all or most of the 95 delegates if he receives enough votes to hold Cruz and Kasich below 20 percent in the individual contests.
Aware of that, “we're currently evaluating which districts and targeted communities in New York present the best opportunity to limit Trump's delegate count,” said Rory Cooper, a senior adviser to the #NeverTrump super-PAC.
Cooper said that the conservative PAC will proceed in a matter “similar with Wisconsin, where we were able to make a significant impact.”
Cruz and Kasich hope to prevent Trump from reaching the 1,237 delegates needed to secure the nomination ahead of the party's convention. Trump is poised to head into July's Republican National Convention in Cleveland leading in the popular vote and in delegates, yet just short of the magic 1,237.
Cruz has no further stops of his own scheduled in the New York at the moment and will instead kick on to California instead. He plans to deploy his wife, Heidi, for a series of campaign events in Long Island on Monday. Marc Utay, managing partner at the private equity firm Clarion Capital Partners LLC, will host a fundraiser for Kasich in Manhattan on Tuesday.
Trump drew more than 10,000 at an event in Long Island earlier this week, but he'll focus his efforts on upstate areas in the next few days, holding rallies in Rochester and Albany on Monday and Tuesday, respectively.
“Clearly, the upcoming April 19 primary here is of the utmost importance to him,” said Representative Chris Collins, a Republican from upstate New York who has endorsed Trump.
Collins said that a strong showing in New York would “stop the momentum of Ted Cruz—especially if he comes up empty or with a small number of delegates.” He said Trump's message in upstate New York will center on opposition to President Barack Obama's trade agreements, as well as Cruz's attack against Trump in January for having so-called “New York values.”
“Ted Cruz insulted all New Yorkers with his New York values line,” Collins said.
The billionaire political novice has put new focus on his delegate operation by bringing on long-time Republican strategist Paul Manafort on board. He's also gotten the support of upstate Erie County Republicans, which endorsed Trump in March, said the county chairman Nick Langworthy.
Langworthy said that he hadn't planned to endorse until he saw 2012 Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney speak forcefully against Trump. “That infuriated me,” Langworthy said. “It was absolutely wrong what he did. It was a hatchet job. And he abused his role as an older statesman.”
“We need someone as radically different as Donald Trump to make effective change in Washington D.C.,” Langworthy said.
Langworthy said that about 60 percent of voters in New York's Republican statewide primaries are from upstate areas. “Trump knows that—and that's why he's having about eight events all over the place between now and primary day,” he said. “You've got to get to all corners of the state—you can't just go to New York City.”