Sunday 25 February 2018

Trump makes 9/11 gaffe on eve of New York primary

Ted Cruz
Ted Cruz
Audience members crowd around Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump after he gave a speech at a campaign stop in Buffalo, New York. Photo: AP

Emily Flitter in New York

Donald Trump made an unfortunate slip of the tongue while campaigning in New York at his final rally before last night's big-prize primary.

Mr Trump was about to deliver prepared remarks lauding New York values when he mistakenly referenced the name of a popular convenience store chain in place of 9/11.

"It's very close to my heart because I was down there, and I watched our police and our firemen down at 7/11, down at the World Trade Center right after it came down, and I saw the greatest people I've ever seen in action."

Mr Trump has repeatedly invoked the September 11 attacks as he has campaigned across his home state.

He paid his first visit to the National September 11 Memorial and Museum earlier this month.

Nonetheless, despite his gaffe, Mr Trump was expected to breeze to victory in last night's New York primary and he's vowed to put the heavily Democratic state in play in the November general election. However, the Queens native could find his home state a political graveyard like so many Republican presidential contenders before him.

Polls show Mr Trump beating his Republican rivals with about 50pc support versus roughly 20pc each for Senator Ted Cruz of Texas (inset) and Ohio Governor John Kasich.

The New York businessman insists he is the only one of the three remaining candidates who can attract enough new voters to win states in the November 8 general election that have long been key Democratic strongholds.

Mr Trump has said repeatedly in interviews and on the campaign trail that he could rewrite the electoral map to put historically Democratic states such as New York and Pennsylvania in play in a general election.

As he describes it, he has crossover appeal that is strongest in the populous northeastern United States, where social attitudes are more liberal than in the deeply religious South and Midwest.

Yet polls and voter-registration records suggest Mr Trump's odds of beating a Democrat in any Northeastern state, let alone New York, are much lower than, say, Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton winning a fortune in a Trump-owned casino.

Corey Lewandowski, Mr Trump's campaign manager, said in an interview that even though he hasn't started competing in the general election, Mr Trump has an advantage in New York because he's well known and employs people in the state. He cited Mr Trump's strong primary performances in Massachusetts and New Hampshire as evidence of his popularity in New England.

"What you have with Donald Trump is a candidate who is the only candidate in this race that will actually have an opportunity to win states that Mitt Romney didn't win," Mr Lewandowski said, referring to the 2012 Republican presidential nominee, who is also a former Massachusetts governor.

Pennsylvania has four million registered Democrats and 3.1 million Republicans, but only 62,000 Democrats have switched sides since the beginning of 2016, state data shows.

New York, with 5.8 million registered Democrats and 2.7 million Republicans, has shown virtually no shift, with the gap between registered voters of the two parties holding fairly steady between 2015 and 2016, according to state records. If Mr Trump has crossover appeal, it's not yet apparent.

The strong Democratic tilt in the Northeast corridor - a region stretching from Maine to Maryland - has made it much harder for Republicans to win at the national level. A conservative has only won one state in the Northeast in the 20-year span from 1992-2012, when George W Bush eked out a victory in New Hampshire in 2000.

New York has not gone Republican in a general election since 1984 when Ronald Reagan won 49 of 50 states in a historic landslide.

Irish Independent

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