My dad always said, “If you’re going to fight a guy, never do it in his own neighborhood. Too many pals might jump in to give him a hand.” Ted Cruz has learned that lesson the hard way. Trying to take down New York businessman Donald Trump in Iowa he disparaged what he called “New York values,” and this week a whole lot of Trump’s friends responded.
Cruz was slapped like a salmon on the counter as the Big Apple came to vote. Trump took a commanding first place. Second went to John Kasich. And the senator from Texas was beaten so far back into third, CNN now projects he can win the nomination only through a contested convention. He went into New York as a numeric long shot, but he emerged as a guy hoping for a miracle.
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That hope, mind you, is not entirely hopeless. Even if Cruz can’t hit the magic number to clinch the nomination before the convention, he might yet deny Trump that honor. And if a contested convention results, who knows what might happen? The GOP is in an uproar. It is not yet clear that the rank and file are ready to line up behind Trump even if he gets more delegates than anyone else.
But primaries are like golf — the whole point is getting closer to your goal. Falling farther away, as Cruz did in the Empire State, is never helpful. No doubt he made that snide comment back in the cornfields in a calculated way. Heartland Republicans most certainly look with disdain on largely Democratic New York when it comes to political views. But the downside was that he irked a lot of New York Republicans. And they made him pay.
Is New York different than other places? Sure. That’s why New Yorkers and millions of tourists love it. But in this way, New Yorkers are exactly like everyone else in America: They want their votes to count. And this week, to Ted Cruz’s chagrin, those votes really did.
(CNN’s Tom Foreman is the author of "My Year of Running Dangerously." He lives in D.C.)