TOWSON, Md. -- Ted Cruz will spend the night of Tuesday’s New York primary in Philadelphia, culminating a four-day stretch with no public appearances by the Texas senator in the Empire State.
“We’re fully aware this is Donald Trump’s home state -- he’s going to do well in New York,” said Catherine Frazier, spokeswoman for the Cruz campaign. “But there are areas that we had an opportunity to expand and get voters, and we’re hopeful we can pick off some delegates to add to our delegate count.”
The Cruz campaign hit Binghamton, Syracuse and Rochester on Friday, telling the hundreds in a Rochester gymnasium the “whole country is looking at New York.”
But Cruz then flew that night to Wyoming, where his campaign picked off the state’s 14 at-large delegates at its convention on Saturday. He spent Sunday in Houston for his daughter’s birthday party.
And on Monday, Cruz held his sole public event in Towson, Maryland, neglecting to mention New York’s primary to the crowd or take questions from the press. To note, the senator held two private events in Manhattan on Monday as well as a nationally televised morning town hall.
But the senator, who, comparatively, held nine events in the final four days of the Wisconsin primary, has seen his prospects in New York shrink. And in the waning days before the New York primary, he neglected to partake in any retail stops or rallies.
A NBC News/WSJ/Marist poll released last week gave Trump a 36-percentage point advantage over Cruz (54 percent to 21 percent). And John Kasich beat out Cruz for second place (21percent to 18 percent).
The campaign sent none of its major surrogates – Carly Fiorina, Scott Walker, Rick Perry or Glenn Beck – to the state.
Campaign aides told NBC News the campaign would target congressional districts it believed Cruz would have a chance at pulling a higher share of voters from and subsequently win a delegate or two from them.
Those stops ranged from the 15th congressional district in the Bronx, a district in which Republicans make up just 4.5% of voters, to western, blue-collar districts represented in Congress by Republicans.
The campaign at one time saw itself as having the chance to significantly eat into Trump’s delegate share, but Cruz appeared to change his benchmark for the GOP results out of the state last week.
“If Donald doesn't get north of 50 percent in his home state, I think that's widely going to be seen as a crushing loss,” Cruz told a crowd in neighboring Erie, Pennsylvania, last week.
If Trump hits the 50 percent threshold, he will win each of the state’s 14 at-large delegates.
For Cruz, there’s been no evidence of a path to victory in Trump’s home state since famously coining “New York values” in a January radio interview to contrast Trump’s candidacy with his own.
The senator’s perceived pejorative use of the word in January failed to escape him by April as he had to address his intended meaning of the term during media interviews and town halls in the state.
Last week at the New York GOP’s annual gala in Manhattan, a ballroom full of New Yorkers widely talked over Cruz’s remarks to the group – even taking selfies and several casually leaving. One Republican who paid $1000 for a ticket to the dinner said Cruz “blew it” with his comments.
But the inclination to side with Trump extended beyond the Big Apple.
“The harshness that [Trump] has makes me want to believe he can do the things he says he’ll do,” said Ron Berardi, a Republican in Rochester deciding between Trump and Cruz. “I don’t know if [Cruz] can gather people around him to move in the direction that we need to move in.”
And the existence of an alternative candidate, John Kasich, for anti-Trump voters remains damaging to Cruz’s efforts to coalesce support.
“If [Kasich’s] running for president, he has my vote,” said Charlie Brooks, a resident of Scotia who attended Cruz’s rally in the town, pushing back on the suggestion he would change his vote because Kasich is mathematically unable to win before a contested convention.