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New York Republicans Sold Their Soul to Trump

Kasich's performance should quiet calls for him to quit



UNITED STATES - APRIL 18 - Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks at a campaign rally at the First Niagara Center, in Buffalo, N.Y., Monday, April 19, 2016. Trump has focused his campaign on the New York Primary, which is Tuesday, April 19, 2016. (Photo By Al Drago/CQ Roll Call)
Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump likes to brand his name with “the kind of dying institution” represented by the New York Republican Party, writes Walter Shapiro. (Photo By Al Drago/CQ Roll Call)

NEW YORK — If Donald Trump could make it anywhere, it should be in the state where he came into the world bristling with outer-borough Queens resentment. Beneath his bluster, bombast and bile, Trump hides the insecurities of a parvenu, the real estate hustler who long worried that he would be dismissed as a bit player like his father.  

The New York Republican Party is the kind of dying institution that Trump likes to brand with his own name. George Pataki, the state’s last GOP governor, wandered ineffectually around the early primary states like the wispy ghost of East Coast Republicanism. But, at least, Pataki had the taste to endorse John Kasich.  

Then there is the tough-guy New York Republicanism personified by Rudy Giuliani, whose 2008 presidential campaign held the record for expensive, over-hyped disaster until Jeb Bush came along. Giuliani first announced that he would be voting for Trump (his rival in tangled marital histories), but until primary day held off saying the magic word “endorse” as if these verbal gymnastics from a has-been mattered.  

The last fragments of New York Republican power lie in the state Senate — the upper branch of a notoriously corrupt legislature. There is not a shred of detectible principle to most GOP legislators, who represent just another fiefdom in Albany demanding its fair share of the grease and the graft.  

Shut out on almost every level of state and national elections, Republican voters are resigned to malign neglect. Their mostly liberal views on social issues are ignored by the national party. Only the free-market buccaneers of Wall Street and their super PACs are worthy of the attention of party leaders. The rest of the GOP voters — whether on Long Island or Upstate — are used to casting meaningless protest votes in a one-party state.  

So it is disheartening, but not surprising, that the New York Republican Party — which once gave the nation Nelson Rockefeller and liberal civil-rights crusader Jacob Javits — now has sold its soul in exchange for the tarted-up pageantry of a trompe l’oeil candidate named Trump.  

Kasich — the candidate who represents the old-fashioned Republican wing of the Republican Party — appeared from the early returns to be holding his own against Trump in Manhattan, at least. In fact, the New York delegates who elude Trump’s short-fingered grasp are more apt to go to Kasich than Cruz.  

What Kasich’s performance in New York should do is to quiet the calls for him to quit the race in favor of Ted Cruz. With primaries in Pennsylvania, Maryland, Connecticut, Delaware and Rhode Island on tap for next Tuesday, Kasich is probably better positioned to take delegates from Trump than his ultra-conservative rival.  

Nothing better symbolizes Ted Cruz’s problems in the Northeast than the…gulp…Dildo Question.  

It was prompted by the discovery by Mother Jones that Cruz, as solicitor general of Texas, had legally defended a law banning the sale of certain sex toys. So there was Cruz on WABC radio having to explain, “What people do in their own private time with themselves is their own business and none of government’s business.”  

Nothing better symbolizes the desperation with which Cruz tried to salvage something out of the New York primary than his visit to a matzah factory in Brighton Beach. Probably never again will the words matzah factory and Ted Cruz be joined in the same sentence. But, at least, the Texas freshman senator has his Brighton Beach memories.  

Now that Cruz can no longer claim with a straight face that he will be  nominated on the first ballot in Cleveland, he and Kasich should publicly join forces in a single cause — making sure that Trump does not win 1,237 delegates.  

The ineptitude of his delegate operations combined with the horror of party regulars at the thought of a reality-show host at the top of the ticket means that it is first ballot or bust for Trump.  

The results from New York State suggest that Cruz is simply the wrong candidate to play in the Northeast. The problem is Cruz’s entire right-wing political persona rather than his attack on “New York values” before the Iowa caucuses.  

In his non-victory speech in Philadelphia, Cruz embraced his Democratic doppelgänger: “This is the year of the outsider. I am an outsider, Bernie Sanders is an outsider.”  

It was probably the wrong night for Cruz to invoke Sanders, the left wing Pied Piper of the Democratic primaries. Hillary Clinton’s clear victory in the state that she represented in the Senate had been expected. But Bernie Believers clung to the hope that 28,000 people at a rally in Prospect Park meant something more than just 28,000 votes in Brooklyn.  

It didn’t.  

In the political year of three New Yorkers, only Clinton (the Illinois-born New Yorker) leaves the state confident about the nomination. Sanders must be feeling the melt of his hopes rather than the Bern. As for Trump, the question remains: Can he hoodwink enough Republican voters to get to 1,237?  

Roll Call columnist Walter Shapiro is a veteran of Politics Daily, USA Today, Time, Newsweek and the Washington Post. He is a lecturer in political science at Yale. Follow him on Twitter at @MrWalterShapiro.

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