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Presidential Horse Race 2016: Ted Cruz’s post New York strategy – Hit and move on!

A day after his impressive victory in New York, Donald Trump must be feeling pretty good right about now.

But he shouldn’t be cocky. After all, Tuesday was the first time he’s broken through the 50 percent barrier in any state – and it did come where people know him best. Just like Ted Cruz’s win in Wisconsin didn’t signal a huge shift in the overall race, Trump’s triumph in New York (and probably victories next week) don’t necessarily indicate people are ready to fully embrace his candidacy.

Ted CruzTrump’s margin of victory was bigger than most anticipated, but I don’t think anyone was shocked by it. On the contrary, Trump was expected to do well in liberal/moderate New York and he basically met those expectations. Plus, it’s only one state…not exactly a trend -- yet.

How should Ted Cruz respond?

As my old law professor used to say when discussing multiple-choice test taking strategy, “Hit and move on!” Sometimes you don’t always know the answers…so take your best guess and then go on to the next question. It’s a timed exam after all, right?

The Republican nomination race really isn’t much different than a multiple choice test. Though New York was a seriously large bump in the road, Cruz needs to treat each day moving forward as a new chance to win something, somewhere.

It’s almost like taking an NFL cornerback’s attitude towards Trump’s New York win. The Donald may have just beaten Cruz for a touchdown on a long pass, but there will be another play to stop after the other team gets the ball back.

As for the #NeverTrump folks, they need to take a similar approach, though their tactics may need to change a bit after next week’s expected rough patch.

Byron York of the Washington Examiner writes, “They will probably work hardest toward blocking Trump in Indiana, which holds its primary on May 3, and in which Cruz is thought to have a solid chance. But before that, the race will hit what could be an inflection point.

“Next week, most likely, Cruz will be mathematically eliminated from winning 1,237 delegates before the Republican convention. Like Kasich, he will no longer have even a theoretical chance of entering the convention a winner. His campaign will be entirely negative — to keep Trump below 1,237. In effect, every vote for Cruz will be a strategic vote.”

I doubt the change in emphasis will make much of a difference in voters’ minds. We’ve known pretty much since Super Tuesday that it would be difficult to beat Trump to 1237 and the best bet for the not-Trump people was to try and hold him under that number and win the delegate game at the convention.

Ted Cruz was the only one who could make the case as a viable alternative to Trump then and it’s true now, too. Nothing’s changed.

Instead, what is to be garnered from New York is perhaps a different way of looking at the race. All along I’ve argued it was basically the “outsiders” versus the establishment. With Trump continuing to do so well, even when he loses, it’s helpful to reclassify the competition a little differently.

The primary race is being driven by voters seeking an anti-establishment candidate AND an outsider. Trump is perceived as both. Cruz is anti-establishment, but voters aren’t really seeing him as an outsider any longer, because he’s an elected officeholder.

Is it a fair distinction? No. But because Ted has more or less worked in politics his entire career, he’s seen as being part of the system…at least by an angry electorate looking for someone to come in and wreck the place.

Hence, Trump’s attacks on the “rigged system” are hitting home with a certain segment of the Republican primary base. From the beginning, The Donald, Ben Carson and Carly Fiorina were the only ones who could legitimately claim to be “outsiders,” because they have never held office before.

Seeing Trump’s populist driven campaign, it’s become evident that voters are seeking something far beyond just fixing the system. They want a person with a completely different perspective to come in and take control.

Trump fits the description perfectly, even if it’s plausibly argued that he’s part of what corrupted the system in the first place. I’m not saying he’s the best candidate for this year or this Republican race. Far from it. But I think that’s how people are viewing this election, since Trump doesn’t have much of a platform and can’t even articulate basic policy proposals other than “making great deals, build a beautiful wall and make China and Mexico play fair.”

Voters’ visceral response to Trump as the face of an anti-establishment outsider isn’t much different than how patriotic Americans react to seeing a movie where some hero takes down a bad guy. They see him as a cavalryman charging the enemy with sword on high, guns be damned.

This is all well and good, but there’s the practical reality involved with an election coming up against a very capable foe and the business of governing after that should Trump ultimately move into the White House. Cruz is an experienced campaigner and debater. Trump’s not. The Donald’s touched a nerve with the fed-up with Washington crowd, but how about the general electorate?

We will find out in the next few weeks whether voters in other parts of the country see it differently than those along the east coast.

Ted Cruz’s latest firewall is The Hoosier State

It’s only natural after taking a drubbing like he did Tuesday in New York that Ted Cruz is looking for greener pastures – literally.

The concrete jungle that is New York City and much of the heavily populated east coast isn’t exactly the most fertile soil for a conservative to go looking for widespread support. So Cruz is looking westward to Indiana, which holds its primary on May 3.

Tim Alberta of National Review writes, “Indiana has emerged as Cruz’s top priority. It awards 57 delegates, and Cruz’s brain trust believes a clean sweep there — or close to it — would erase Trump’s already-thin margin for error and effectively end his hopes of entering Cleveland with 1,237 delegates. Accordingly, they have been preparing to throw everything they have at the state, in an effort to reapply the formula that worked to such devastating effect in Wisconsin.”

Alberta goes on to detail the challenges Cruz faces in turning Indiana into another Wisconsin, which include overcoming a lack of state establishment support there and potentially needing to save resources for other places farther down the calendar.

Cruz no doubt planned for the possibility of a long campaign, but I’m not sure anyone quite believed it would go on through July’s convention. It almost makes you wonder how John Kasich is able to keep it up considering he’s only got one win and the six delegates he won in New York on Tuesday were his first in over a month.

Simply stated, I think how Cruz fares in Indiana will depend on the perceptions of conservatives there and whether they consider the campaign to be over. Indiana will be the first state to vote after the battles on the eastern front conclude and can either signal the beginning of the end or provide a new hope for ultimately stopping Trump at the convention.

Yes, the stakes are that high.

Trump’s hubris could very well be a factor in Indiana as well. People don’t like being told by the self-appointed new leader of the party that the contest is over and their opinions don’t matter. The possibility for a backlash is real in Indiana, since it’s safe to say Midwestern conservatives are not the same as eastern urbanites.

You know, people with those “New York values” at play.

Momentum in a campaign is a funny thing. It comes and goes according to region, specific issues and shifting core values from place to place.

The Donald would be wise to remember the race isn’t over yet and arrogance is the one thing that could easily sink his ship before he reaches port in Cleveland.

John Kasich shows no signs of regaining his mental health

While Donald Trump must certainly be basking in a positive vibe today, John Kasich is acting like he’s just as pleased, though it’s not clear how much longer one of them can keep up the ruse of happiness.

Fresh off finally winning a handful of delegates in New York, the delusional Ohio governor is back to saying he’s the one who will win the nomination in Cleveland because he’s best situated to challenge Trump in next week’s round of blue state primary boogey.

Michelle Everhart of The Columbus Dispatch reports, “’Gov. Kasich proved that he is best positioned against Donald Trump in the upcoming April 26 states. Ted Cruz’s brand of politics simply won’t play with most voters in Connecticut, Rhode Island, Delaware, Pennsylvania and Maryland,’ Kasich’s chief strategist John Weaver wrote in a memo.

“‘A vote for Cruz in these states is a vote for Trump. And a vote for Cruz or Trump is a vote for Hillary Clinton in November because neither of them can win a general election.’”

Kasich did soundly defeat Cruz for first runner-up to Trump in New York, but that doesn’t mean a whole lot for a man who’s only stood on the winner’s podium once during this entire process.

As I’ve said before, I blame the media for perpetuating the lie that Kasich is still part of the Republican conversation, giving him near equal time with Cruz and pretending that a guy who is still in fourth place overall in a three-man race deserves any mention whatsoever.

By Kasich’s twisted reasoning, Jeb Bush should still be in the race because he won four delegates before dropping out after South Carolina.

Kasich did pick up another endorsement on Wednesday, that of former Wyoming Senator Alan Simpson. It looks like the biggest liberals in the party are coming out in full force for Kasich now. Should they keep it up, maybe he’ll even win another delegate somewhere along the line.

Anyone up for more Republican presidential debates?

Finally today, it seems like an eternity since the last Republican presidential debate, which took place on March 10 in Miami.

Donald Trump said at the time that there have been “enough debates” and refused to agree to do any more. Similarly, John Kasich backed out of one scheduled for March 21 because Trump said he wouldn’t participate.

But with the campaign season dragging on and on, there are rumors the RNC is considering adding some more debates.

Jessie Hellmann of The Hill reports, “Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus said Tuesday the committee will discuss the possibility of holding more presidential primary debates ahead of the Republican National Convention in July…

“Priebus said the committee would discuss future debate options during its meeting this week in Florida.”

On Tuesday night it looked like Trump was trying very hard to be conciliatory towards his opponents. But if there are to be more debates, will we see a return of “Lyin’ Ted?”

I guess we’ll find out then whether The Donald is serious about being “presidential”.

Personally, I’m all in for more debates – I think they’re necessary and would be helpful in the months that remain before the Republican convention.

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