SYRACUSE – Donald Trump told a crowd of Central New Yorkers on Saturday that Ted Cruz “does not like you” and criticized John Kasich for supporting foreign trade agreements, as he sought to blast his rivals for the Republican presidential nomination and enhance his own chances for a much-needed big win in the state’s primary.
Trump, though enjoying a big lead in most New York polls, urged his voters to “pretend we are losing” and not become complacent ahead of Tuesday’s vote. Left unsaid was the notion that Trump, the GOP frontrunner, needs to nearly sweep New York delegates for a shot at clinching the nomination and avoiding a contested GOP convention this summer.
“Don’t believe the polls. Pretend we are losing,” Trump told a crowd gathered at a downtown civic center. “You gotta go out. You gotta vote. Bring everyone you know to vote … and you can leave the rest to me.”
Trump’s rhetoric cloaks some of the campaign math at work. He’s all but certain to win the statewide vote but wants to keep Kasich, the Ohio governor, and Cruz, the Texas senator, below the 25 percent threshold in each of New York’s 27 congressional districts. That would give Trump a sweep.
“Remember, this Ted Cruz does not like you and he does not like New York,” Trump said, referring to Cruz’s crack, in an earlier debate, about “New York values.”
“He talks about New York values with hatred in his heart,” Trump said. “This guy is so bad for New York.”
He cited Cruz’s opposition to a federal relief package following superstorm Sandy, saying “he was against New York.”
Trump also took shots at Kasich for supporting the North American Free Trade Agreement while a congressman. Trump said NAFTA led to air conditioner giant Carrier moving jobs from Central New York to Mexico.
“Remember, Kasich supported NAFTA,” Trump said. “NAFTA destroyed New York State … It was a disaster. It took your jobs.”
Trump hit many of his usual talking points — Obamacare, ISIS, Common Core, his claim that the U.S. “doesn’t win any more.” But he especially talked about foreign trade agreements, highlighting the loss of jobs in upstate cities like Syracuse.
“So you lost your manufacturing. You lost your jobs. Other than that, you’re doing great, right?” Trump said in his opening remarks.
Trump is the lone Republican with a chance of securing the 1,237 delegates necessary to clinch the nomination before the party convention in July. Kasich, who is running third, has said repeatedly no one will arrive at the convention with a majority — a notion that Cruz too says is increasingly likely.
Trump increasingly has told his supporters that the Republican National Committee and party leaders are trying to essentially steal the nomination from him at a contested convention. He repeated that message Saturday.
“The RNC, you better get it going because you’re going to have a rough July,” Trump said.
RNC officials have defended the nominating process.