NEW YORK — Donald Trump easily won New York’s Republican presidential primary Tuesday, a significant home state victory that is likely to give new momentum to the GOP frontrunner’s campaign after weeks of turmoil.
“It’s just incredible,” Trump declared, as he spoke inside the atrium of Trump Tower in Manhattan surrounded by his family and at least 100 cheering friends and supporters. “We’re gonna end at a very high level, and get a lot more delegates than anybody projected, even in their wildest imagination.”
Though the results were still being tallied, Trump appeared to be in a strong position to win close to the 95 delegates at stake Tuesday, expanding the real estate mogul’s already sizable delegate lead over his closest rival, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz. But it was unclear if Trump’s home state win will be enough to stave off a contested Republican convention this summer.
While Trump has won the majority of votes in the GOP race so far, his campaign was slow to get a handle on the delegate race and has been outmaneuvered in several states, including Louisiana, Colorado and Wyoming, by the Cruz campaign in recent weeks. But Cruz, who has positioned himself as the chief alternative to Trump, suffered a significant setback on Tuesday, placing a distant third in the primary behind Ohio Gov. John Kasich. Though Cruz did not expect to win New York, his poor showing put him at risk of emerging Tuesday with no delegates at all.
Donald Trump speaks to reporters at a primary-night event at Trump Tower in New York City on Tuesday. (Photo: Shannon Stapleton/Reuters)
Speaking to reporters about Cruz’s fortunes on Tuesday night, Trump declared, “We don’t have much of a race anymore based on what I am seeing. … It’s impossible to catch us.”
For Trump, the win in New York was a psychological boost for his campaign, which has been under pressure amid delegate intrigue and Cruz’s victory in Wisconsin two weeks ago. And it came at a crucial time, giving Trump momentum heading into a slate of Northeastern states believed to be favorable to his campaign, including Pennsylvania, Maryland, Delaware and Rhode Island, which hold GOP primaries on April 26.
But Tuesday’s victory also came amid rumors of staff turmoil as Trump has sought to reshuffle and expand his campaign infrastructure in the face of a delegate race that could make or break his insurgent White House bid. After his loss in Wisconsin, Trump gave new power to Paul Manafort, a longtime GOP hand whom he tapped as his convention manager.
That has raised questions about the future and influence of Corey Lewandowski, Trump’s campaign manager, who has been embroiled in scandal in recent weeks after tangling with a female reporter at a Trump event last month. Initially charged with simple battery in the case, he was cleared last week. But rumors have persisted that Manafort is essentially taking over Lewandowski’s portfolio, as Trump has granted him new powers to hire and fire staff and build a ground operation heading into crucial upcoming primaries like California’s.
Corey Lewandowski, Trump’s campaign manager, talks to the media before the candidate’s primary-night rally in Manhattan. (Photo: Shannon Stapleton/Reuters)
On Monday, Stuart Jolly, a close ally of Lewandowski, abruptly resigned as Trump’s campaign field director. The move came just days after Trump, at Manafort’s suggestion, hired Rick Wiley, a longtime GOP operative who previously ran Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker’s failed presidential bid, to be his new political director.
But even as Manafort appears to be expanding his power within the campaign, Lewandowski has pushed back against claims of his waning influence. On Tuesday night, the longtime Trump aide positioned himself front and center during his boss’s campaign event, making himself available to reporters at least twice. And when Trump sauntered to the podium to the strains of Frank Sinatra’s “New York, New York,” Lewandowski stood at his boss’s right elbow, along with the Trump family.
Trump thanked his staff and denied rumors of campaign infighting. “My team has been amazing. And you know, it’s actually a team of unity,” he insisted.
And he criticized the media for focusing on his staff squabbling, insisting it was making a story where there is none. “It’s evolving,” Trump said of his campaign team. “People don’t understand that. The press does understand it. They just don’t want to talk about it.”
But even as Trump touted the unity of his team, there were hints of Manafort’s influence in his remarks Tuesday. He took a decidedly more sober tone, referring to his chief rival as “Senator Cruz,” rather than “Lyin’ Ted,” as had become one of his election night trademarks. And it had been expected that Trump would take questions from the assembled press corps, but instead he spoke for less than 10 minutes and then stepped away from the podium, a rarity for a candidate known for his rambling press conferences.
Before he walked away, Trump thanked the voters of his home state. “I can think of nowhere that I would rather have this victory,” he said. “We love New York.”
(Cover thumbnail photo: Shannon Stapleton/Reuters)