Trying To Win
Ted Cruz Knows What He’s Doing.
John Kasich? Not So Much.
There really isn’t much of a question as to who is going to win the New York Primary. In just about every poll taken in the past week, Donald Trump leads the rest of the field by at least 27 points. Texas Senator Ted Cruz and Ohio Governor John Kasich are both far behind Trump, in the low 20’s to the high teens.
But the candidates not named Trump are still doing some campaigning in the Empire State, with an emphasis on New York City. Only 14 of the state’s 95 delegates are awarded to the statewide winner; the remaining 81 are split evenly between the states 27 Congressional districts, three apiece. If a candidate manages to earn 50% of the vote in a CD, he would get all 3 of the delegates assigned to it. If no candidate earns over 50%, then the delegates are split 2–1 between the winner & whoever comes in second place.
In trying to peel some delegates away from Trump, Cruz and Kasich both seemed to have decided to target the Orthodox Jewish community in New York City, primarily Brooklyn. The thinking behind this is simple. Congressional districts in New York State have an average of around 720,000 people. The districts in the city, however, are overwhelmingly Democrat, which leads to some districts having a voter pool of only 30,000 registered Republicans — who are the only ones who can vote in this closed primary.
On its face, it seems like a good strategy. Orthodox Jews tend to be more socially conservative and they are one of the few groups who vote Republican in Presidential elections in New York. They also have a strong presence in a few of the congressional districts where Republicans are scarce.
But just knowing to try to win over Brooklyn’s Orthodox Jews isn’t all a candidate needs to know and do. And that extra bit of knowledge which makes the difference is also what separates the campaigns of Ted Cruz and John Kasich.
Both candidates visited matzah bakeries & spoke to residents on their swings through Jewish Brooklyn, and to anyone who isn’t familiar with the community, it would seem as though what they both did was kind of a wash. But it really wasn’t.
Cruz visited a Chabad model Matzah bakery, and then spoke at a Russian Jewish center in Brighton Beach. Kasich went to Chareidim Matzah Bakery (loosely affiliated with the Satmar Hasidim) and spoke to voters in Boro Park.
Here’s why that makes a difference.
There was a very specific reason why Cruz went to campaign where he did. The Russian Jewish community in Brooklyn is one of the only communities in Brooklyn which is actually made up of Republicans. And they can move votes as well. In 2012, shortly after Republican Bob Turner won the special election to replace Anthony Weiner, there was another special election in Brooklyn. David Storobin, a Republican (who also happens to be a Russian Jew,) took on and beat Democrat Lew Fidler, getting himself over 10,000 votes in the process.
Sitting behind Cruz as he made his pitch in the Brighton Beach Jewish Center was David Storobin.
This was an example of what we’ve been seeing from Cruz throughout the primary. A smart campaign, which pays attention to detail. A strong ground game, which recognizes the value in making a connection with someone like Storobin, who can help them convince an otherwise disengaged community to turn out for the candidate who is actually paying attention to them.
So why is what Kasich did all that different? Didn’t he also go bake Matzah and talk to Jewish voters?
Kasich’s trip to Orthodox Jewish Brooklyn can be described in two words. Epic Fail.
Kasich went to Boro Park, which has the highest concentration of Orthodox Jews in the city, which, to someone as uninformed as he, must seem like a great idea. But in doing so, he made a big mistake. He seems to have forgotten that only Republicans can vote in a Republican Primary.
The political strength of the Satmar Hasidim in New York City politics is pretty well known. Hasidic Jews are one of the last reliable blocs in the city, and politicians know that if they can get the backing of the leadership, the votes will come.
And they are a force. But the thing is, to be a force in New York City politics, you need to play in Democrat primaries. So the overwhelming majority of Hasidim are registered Democrat, despite being more ideologically aligned with the GOP and their affinity for Republican Presidential candidates.
Put simply, while Cruz went to the places where the delegates are, Kasich managed to spend time in the place where they aren’t. Which kind of tells you all you need to know about the two campaigns. Cruz is a serious candidate, tracking down the votes and putting in the work it takes to get them. Kasich just isn’t. A serious campaign would have put in the legwork to make the discovery that the people he visited to ask for their votes won’t be able to vote for him.
John Kasich likes to talk about how he’s the candidate best equipped to beat Hillary in November. But this episode in New York serves to underscore what we’ve been seeing this entire campaign. While the Cruz campaign works hard and does the little things which are necessary to win in the primaries, Kasich is ready to do neither. And while this ought to disabuse anyone of the notion that Kasich could actually win in a General Election against Hillary, it should also provide encouragement vis a vis Ted Cruz. He’s obviously got what it takes to run, and even win, a general election, which will demand this sort of creativity.