Donald Trump is poised to win New York in a landslide on Tuesday but he could leave as many as two-dozen critical delegates on the table by failing to win an outright majority in every corner of the state, according to new congressional district-level polling provided to POLITICO.
The survey from Republican firm Optimus Consulting shows Trump doubling his next closest competitor, John Kasich, 49 percent to 24 percent, with Ted Cruz far behind with 14 percent. But even as the survey has him leading in all 27 congressional districts, Trump’s margins will prove crucial in the hunt for New York’s 95 delegates, from Buffalo to Ithaca to Bethpage.
Under the state’s complex rules, all three delegates in each of the state’s 27 congressional districts are awarded to the winner if he or she gets to 50 percent there — meaning that even a dominant Trump performance short of that mark could leak some delegates to his rivals. If Trump wins a congressional district by only a plurality, he’ll receive two delegates, and the runner-up will receive one.
In the poll, Trump’s strongest showings are on Long Island and in Brooklyn, Queens, and Staten Island in New York City, where he’s above or within the margin of error of 50 percent in 10 congressional districts. His weakest spots are a swath of upstate districts where he polled closer to 40 percent than to a majority. In the two congressional districts that cover Buffalo and its surrounding area, Trump hovered right around 50 percent.
Overall, the survey shows Trump well above the 50 percent threshold in five districts. It has him within the margin of error of the 50 percent threshold in another 14 districts. He is below that threshold in eight districts. A couple of the most heavily Democratic seats, such as Rep. Charlie Rangel’s district, have very small sample sizes, rendering the results statistically insignificant.
The results suggest that Trump is poised to win, even on an only mediocre night, at least 65 delegates in New York. A stronger evening would lift him to closer to 85 delegates or more. Trump’s campaign is banking on New York serving as a turning point after a big loss in Wisconsin earlier this month, and after delegate wipeouts at state conventions in Colorado and North Dakota.
While state-level polls are common, such granular district-level data are rare. This automated phone survey of 14,201 New York Republicans was conducted by Optimus, a Republican data firm that previously worked for Sen. Marco Rubio’s campaign, between April 12 and 14. It conducted a previous survey in March.
Also up for grabs are statewide delegates, and in that race, Trump stands just below the magic 50 percent threshold he needs to hit to win all 14. If he falls short, he’ll split them proportionally with Cruz and Kasich, costing him roughly seven delegates.
The survey showed 14 percent of New York Republicans were still undecided. "Trump needs only a small fraction of those voters to break his way for him to hit 50 percent in many of the most competitive seats.
When the undecided voters were pushed to declare a preference, Trump received the backing of 17 percent of them. Kasich received 15 percent and Cruz got 9 percent. Six in 10 stayed undecided.
The survey is bad news for Cruz, who ran third in 25 of the 27 New York districts in the poll. Cruz faces a double-edged problem in his delegate chase. In some of the districts where Cruz runs best, Trump is flirting with or over the 50-percent line, meaning the businessman would take all three district delegates and leave Cruz empty-handed. In others, particularly in New York City, Kasich is still in a close battle for second place and the one delegate per district that could go to the runner-up.
Cruz’s campaign and super PAC recently started running radio ads in a handful of upstate media markets that touch districts where Trump is shy of 50 percent and Cruz and Kasich are fairly close in the race for second. One of those districts belongs to GOP Rep. Tom Reed, one of the few members of Congress to endorse Trump.
Trump’s strongest support was on Staten Island, in New York’s 11th congressional district, where Trump received the support of nearly 70 percent of voters. He topped 60 percent in only one other district.
The Optimus survey also asked New York voters their opinions on the ongoing feud between Trump and Fox News host Megyn Kelly, who met privately with Trump earlier this week.
A 44 percent plurality of Republicans said Kelly is “fair to all” in her coverage, while 38 percent said she was “unfair to Trump” but not others. A small fraction, 6 percent, said she was fair to Trump but not others and 12 percent were undecided.
The survey also asked about Trump’s signature proposal to have Mexico pay for a wall on America’s southern border. Nearly 39 percent said the wall would be built and Mexico would pay for it under a President Trump, 21 percent said the wall would be built but the United States would pay, 23 percent said the wall would not be built and 17 percent said Trump simply wouldn’t be president.