In New York on Tuesday, Donald Trump scored his first truly "yuge" primary win, finally pocketing a majority of a state's votes (60.5 percent, in this case), rather than just a plurality. The New York native also swept nearly all of the Empire State's delegates, giving him a seemingly insurmountable lead of about 300 delegates over Ted Cruz in the race to 1,237. (Trump now has more than 840.) And to boot, Cruz was humiliated in New York. He proved, once again, that he is a candidate with extremely limited appeal.
The percentage of remaining delegates that Trump needs to secure the nomination before the Republican convention is plummeting, and it will continue to fall next week, when 100 or so delegates could come his way in Pennsylvania, Connecticut, and the mid-Atlantic states. So, yes, Trump can win the nomination ahead of the convention. But it will be tough. It depends on running up wins throughout California's 53 congressional districts, and persuading the substantial portion of Pennsylvania's unbound delegates to vote for the candidate who won the state.
Regardless, the basic dynamic of the election is set. Nothing that happened in New York suggests that Trump has made a giant leap out of the tar pit into which his candidacy has sunk. A real frontrunner would be planning his convention, and getting his donors to max out in preparation for the national campaign. Trump is not racking up real endorsements. Nobody is putting pressure on his rivals to drop out and endorse him. He is limping to the finish line. He may cross it. Hey may come so close that the party just gives him a pity-shove over it. He may fail just enough for Cruz to make a convention play. In any case, absent a white knight, the party will nominate Trump or Cruz, both of whom are unpopular sure-losers.
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Trump doesn't seem to have anything up his sleeve to change this dynamic. Earlier in the primaries, when it seemed like media or voter attention was drifting away from Trump, he simply announced a more extreme position on immigration or trade. It allowed him to seize the initiative, and the press. He would occasionally hint that some of this was just for the rubes voting for him. He said that, as president, he could become politically correct.
Whatever his sincerity, Trump doesn't seem likely to try it again. Either he genuinely is out of populist tricks or he thinks that any more attempts would harm him in the general election. On a talk radio appearance before the New York votes came in, Trump was asked if he would change anything from the beginning of his campaign. He replied, "I guess I could have toned a couple of words down or thoughts down, would have been nice." Regrets, he has a few.
Trump also hasn't done anything to unite himself with the parts of the party that have opposed him so far. He announced a plan to list a number of judges from which he would select Supreme Court nominees. Social conservatives remain unmoved. His announcement of his foreign policy advisory team was as reassuring as entering into the most important meeting of his life with a joy-buzzer and a can of nuts filled with a gag-snake ready to pop out. Trump has quite literally spent more time trying to reconcile with Megyn Kelly of Fox News than with the party that he is dividing and maybe-sorta-almost-not-quite conquering.
Given that Trump seems tired and genuinely uninterested in shaking up his message in a way that would seal the campaign for him before the convention, it's hard not to think that deep down, his preferred outcome is to have the nomination pulled away from him at a contested convention. He would be immediately relieved of the responsibility of having to run a campaign, or of being president. He would be free to launch rhetorical grenades at a doomed Republican nominee. He'd get to be a victim of the political system and he'd get to say "I told you so" when the GOP nominee almost inevitably loses to Hillary Clinton. That's the best deal on the table for him. He'd probably take it.
In other words, New York changed nothing and confirmed everything worth knowing about this election: The Republican Party is doomed.
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