But a funny thing happened on the way to New York. Trump avoided any self-inflicted disasters for two weeks. Instead, he focused his criticism on Cruz's tactics of securing delegates rather than appealing to voters directly. Many people criticized him for "whining." However, if the national polls are any indication, Trump has regained lost ground over the last two weeks while Cruz's favorability ratings have plunged. Most people seemed to interpret Cruz's voter-less victories as somehow illegitimate, that Cruz was being too clever by half. Cruz was winning the battles, but losing the war.
The effect was on full display tonight. Trump was always supposed to win New York. Yet the scope of tonight's win was surprising. As of this writing, Trump is hovering around 60% of the vote in his home state, with Ted Cruz a distant third under 15%. Cruz will win no delegates from New York, while Trump looks like he will capture over 90 over New York's 95 delegates.
In terms of momentum, this is a dramatic shift. The contest moves to Northeastern states where Trump's only real competition is John Kasich, who thus far has only won his home state of Ohio. Polls show Trump has a lead in every Northeastern state yet to vote and it's hard to imagine Cruz rebounding in any of these areas.
Trump's victory speech at Trump Tower was interesting precisely because it was so, well, uninteresting. He took a jab at Cruz by saying delegates should only be decided by voters, rather than by meetings of party activists. However, Trump was largely restrained in his comments and took no questions from the press. He's running as a cautious frontrunner, with far more discipline than he's shown thus far.
In contrast, there are signs of panic in the Cruz camp. Cruz had a fiery argument with Sean Hannity on his radio show today. After that, he had a rally in Pennsylvania where almost no one showed up. There, he debuted a cringe-worthy new slogan ("Yes We Will") which sounds like something Jeb!'s consultants could have come up with.
There have been several opportunities for Trump to consolidate Republicans around him earlier in the campaign. Trump has blown every one. At the same time, he's always come roaring back.
Now, Trump has another such opportunity. If he can show the discipline he displayed tonight, if his campaign can avoid any internal turmoil, and if Trump can sweep the Northeast, he'll be well placed for the crucial Indiana primary on May 3. If he wins there, he is likely to secure the 1237 delegates he needs to avoid a contested convention.