Updated | There he was, walking through the Trump Tower, like an Egyptian pharaoh, except with a solid tie and Sinatra’s “New York, New York” echoing through the lobby. Ten months ago, almost to the day, Donald Trump walked through this edifice to launch his longshot presidential bid. Now he was back, the likely nominee of the Republican Party and a plausible president of the United States. “We are really rocking,” he said. This time no one could accuse him of overstatement.
For weeks, reports of Trump’s demise were greatly exaggerated. It had been days of bad news for his campaign, most of it distorted by a GOP establishment wishing and hoping that Trump was finally falling. After all, Ted Cruz had picked off delegates at obscure state conventions, and the 40-something senator had won the majority of contests out West. He’d shown the qualities that make him loved and hated from Harvard to Austin and back to Washington: he’s tenacious, driven and prepared. The elites, like buzzards circling overhead, figured that if Trump couldn’t get the requisite number of delegates before the GOP convention, that his carcass would be picked apart like carrion.
The funeral was premature. With Trump’s big victory in New York on Tuesday, he’s set to sweep primaries in the Mid Atlantic next week when Pennsylvania, Maryland, Rhode Island hit the polls. “When you look at these places they have problems, everywhere you look,” Trump said at his victory rally on Tuesday night.
These are states with plenty of closed factories, but fewer evangelicals than in, say, Wisconsin or Wyoming. Trump’s delegate lead is going to grow, and with it the chances that Cruz or the hapless John Kasich will prove unable to catch him. Trump’s victory tonight is huuuge; it looks like he will win every delegate. Yes, New York is his home state, but he’s winning by much bigger margins than Cruz in his native Texas or Kasich in his native Ohio.
Trump didn’t get here because of a fluke or a glitch. His victory wasn’t the result of some stray spark of celebrity that set an unintentional brushfire like a national park tourist who forgot to piss on the embers at his campsite. Trump’s message has resonated with GOP voters, and the party elites have been confused since last June. At each inflection point, Republican traditionalists have had fainting spells: He can’t say that. But he did, about Muslim immigrants (We’ll keep you out for awhile), American corporations (We’ll tax you if you leave) even George W. Bush (He never kept us safe.) All of this has led forgotten white working class voters to rally around him even while professional Republicans got the vapors.
But in New York, Trump took home the college educated, too. His message is resonating with healthcare administrators and hard hats alike. That’s because it’s built on a simple premise: that America is losing to other countries. Now, Trump’s implausible, ugly plans have cemented the belief among the Republican rank and file that he’s fearless and willing to be politically incorrect while others fret and focus group every word.
In the coming days, Trump will probably face another death scare or two. Cruz will pick off an upset, so the New York billionaire could end the race with say, 1180 delegates instead of 1237. Either way, he still has the nomination. The only things between him and his claim in Cleveland would be an act of stunning self-sabotage before the Republicans gather—or the extremely remote chance that the party turns to Cruz if Trump falls shy of the required delegate count. But that seems much less likely after tonight, which means the Donald can soon set his sights on a foe he says he’s eager to face: Hillary Clinton.
Correction: An earlier version of this article wrongly claimed that the Virginia primary was part of the Mid Atlantic primaries later in April. It was in fact held earlier this month.