By Jim Ellis
April 11, 2016 — Many people are questioning why Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) went to The Bronx last week in preparation for the April 19 New York primary, a little over a week from now.
Significantly trailing both front-runner Donald Trump and Gov. John Kasich (R-OH) in the latest released polling (Monmouth University; April 2-3; 302 likely New York Republican primary voters; Trump 52 percent, Kasich 25 percent, Cruz 17 percent), which is consistent with earlier data in the public realm, it appears that the senator may not be using his limited time wisely in visiting a place with so few Republican voters. But, there is a method to Cruz’s “madness”.
New York has a complicated Republican delegate apportionment system. For a candidate to qualify for any of the 11 at-large delegates, he must break the 20 percent vote threshold. If, on the other end of the spectrum, a candidate exceeds a statewide majority the at-large delegates then become Winner-Take-All.
The 27 congressional districts are designed in similar fashion. If a candidate breaks the 50 percent barrier in an individual district, that seat’s three delegates are all awarded to the top finisher. If the district winner falls between 20 and 50 percent, he wins two delegates and the person in second position receives one.
All 27 districts have three delegates irrespective of the number of Republicans they contain. Therefore, Cruz’s trip to the part of The Bronx that houses the two most Democratic districts in the entire country had a purpose.
Though few people will choose to vote in the Republican primary in Bronx districts 13 (Rep. Charlie Rangel-D), 14 (Rep. Joe Crowley-D), and 15 (Rep. Jose Serrano-D), those seats have three GOP delegates apiece that will be assigned regardless of the number of people voting. Therefore, if Cruz could finish first or second in such districts with minimal effort and at least deny Trump 50 percent, he could steal several delegates. With Trump’s margin to achieve a national first-ballot victory being very narrow, every single delegate matters.
New York has a total of 95 delegates: the 11 at-large, 81 in the 27 congressional districts, and three unbound RNC convention votes. To reach Trump’s national delegate apportionment goal in his home state, he will have to approach the 80-mark, which will be no easy task under the system described above. Therefore, Kasich and Cruz’s ability to make a stronger showing will not result in either winning the state, but they could make achieving Trump’s already difficult national delegate quota all the more arduous.
Both the Ohio governor and Texas senator know their only chance at remaining alive in the nomination fight is to force a brokered convention. And, the only way to open the convention is to deny Trump the first ballot majority.
The April primaries are critical for Trump because they are all in the eastern region. After New York concludes, five states will vote on the 26th of the month: Connecticut, Delaware, Maryland, Pennsylvania and Rhode Island.
Including New York, Trump needs to secure in the 170 range of the 267 available delegates just to enter the realm of securing the 1,237 delegate votes necessary for nomination.