Business mogul Donald Trump won his home state of New York Tuesday night by playing up his "New York values" after the 9/11 terror attacks and his deep ties to the local business community. The victory added to his delegate count and better positioned him to take on GOP establishment leaders who have worked behind the scenes for months to keep him from becoming the Republican nominee.
"Thank you, New York! I love you!" Trump tweeted after the polls closed.
The delegate pick-up moves Trump closer to the number needed to lock the nomination and keep the #NeverTrump forces from wresting it away from him at the convention. Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus promised Tuesday the process would be fair, even as he vowed that the nomination contest would head to a second ballot if Trump failed to secure the 1,237 delegates needed before the GOP convention in Cleveland in July.
But Trump also faces internal hurdles to winning the nomination. As he pulled further ahead of Texas Sen. Ted Cruz and Ohio Gov. John Kasich, his campaign continued to fend off questions about its organizational abilities and professionalism after mistakes such as a spelling error cost it delegates in key states, including Colorado. Longtime aide Stuart Jolly left the campaign Monday after serving as its national field director, the Guardian reported.
"We don't have much of a race any more," Trump said during his victory speech at Trump Tower in New York. "Sen. Cruz is just about mathematically eliminated."
Some GOP leaders fear Trump won't be well-positioned to take on Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton and her tightly run campaign, while Cruz reminded voters Tuesday during a media interview that Trump hasn't had a strong handle on the primary process that requires campaign to acquire delegate voters, not just win states.
"I cannot help that the Donald Trump campaign does not seem capable of running a lemonade stand," Cruz said in a radio interview with Sean Hannity, adding, "The Donald Trump campaign doesn't know what they're doing. They don't show up."
Ahead of New York, Trump won 21 states to become the Republican front-runner, but his candidacy was challenged by GOP leaders, including Mitt Romney, who sought to persuade voters that his penchant for jabs and divisive policy ideas, such as banning Muslims who aren’t U.S. citizens and building a wall on the Mexican border, should prevent him from becoming the nominee. He is expected to do well April 26 in primary contests in Maryland, Delaware, Rhode Island, Connecticut and Pennsylvania.
— Ali Vitali (@alivitali) April 20, 2016
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) April 20, 2016
Trump made his case in New York by touting his close ties to the state where he grew up and built his business empire. He spent no money on ad buys, instead relying on the massive media attention that has followed his campaign and on his name recognition as a former reality TV star and one of the nation's richest men. He was ahead by 30 points in the polls long before a vote was cast.
But his efforts weren't without missteps. He was mocked on social media Tuesday after he misspoke about the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks during a rally in Buffalo, New York.
"I wrote this out, and it's very close to my heart because I was down there and I watched our police and our firemen down at 7/11, down at the World Trade Center right after it came down," the GOP front-runner said. "And I saw the greatest people I've ever seen in action."
“We see the values with our New York police and firefighters. They don’t get enough credit. These are great, great people,” he said. “We see it with the families that go to your parks. Central Park, all of your parks,” he said.
“And what are New York values? Honesty and straight talk,” Trump said. “People say, ‘Oh you tell it too straight, Mr. Trump.’ I think that’s what you like.”
Many Trump supporters agree. They say he is best positioned to grow the economy and combat illegal immigration. Rich Padovano told the New York Times after voting in Staten Island that the nation needs Trump’s outspokenness.
“I agree with the majority of Republicans,” said Padovano, 62, a retired restaurant manager and a lifelong Republican. “We are lost as a country, and we need somebody to make drastic changes.”
“And we are allowing in too many people in the country too quickly,” he said of undocumented immigrants.
While two of his adult children failed to register on time to vote for him Tuesday, there was one vote Trump could count on in New York: his own. He cast his ballot Tuesday morning at a midtown Manhattan polling place.