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On Eve of Primary, Ted Cruz Looks Beyond Trump-Friendly New York

A day before the New York Republican primary, where Donald Trump is expected to dominate, Ted Cruz was stumping in Maryland, ready for the next round of contests.

Presidential candidate and U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz speaks at a town hall campaign event at Mekeel Christian Academy in Scotia, Ne…

TOWSON, Md. — New York is already in Ted Cruz's rearview mirror.  

There was no last-minute blitz to make his case to New York voters on the eve of the state's primary. Instead, Cruz campaigned Monday in Maryland to a cheering crowd of hundreds at an American Legion hall in this college town outside of Baltimore

"Do we nominate Donald Trump and hand the election over to Hillary Clinton?" Cruz yelled to the crowd. "Or do we unite behind the Cruz campaign and beat Hillary Clinton?" 

Cruz is not expected to place well in New York on Tuesday, so he's moved on to another blue state: Maryland. But like his travels in upstate New York and to conservative constituencies in New York City, there are delegates to be had here as well as Cruz continues his march to the GOP convention in Cleveland in July.  

Real estate magnate Trump far outpaces Cruz in the delegate count, but Cruz could have a path to the nomination if there is a floor flight in Cleveland. 

The Empire State has been a particularly brutal state for Cruz. Both Trump and the notoriously rough New York City tabloid press ripped Cruz over the course of the state campaign for disparaging "New York values" at a debate in January. 

Even beyond the rhetoric, Cruz was going to be a tough fit for New York. The state lacks a strong evangelical population, a voting bloc that has turned out for him elsewhere. As such, recent polling showed the Texas senator in a distant third place there behind Trump and Ohio Gov. John Kasich.

But his campaign strategy is not based on statewide wins. The aim there and here in Maryland is to pick off delegates wherever possible. 

Cruz campaigned here Monday in the outskirts of Baltimore with former Hewlett Packard CEO Carly Fiorina, a former rival for the GOP nomination who endorsed him in March. 

Few surrogates have appeared by Cruz's side onstage as frequently with Cruz as Fiorina. She's joined him on the trail at least 12 times and is widely speculated as a top contender for his vice presidential choice, should he win the nomination.

Maryland will host its GOP primary on April 26, a week after New York, along with several other mostly mid-Atlantic and New England states: Pennsylvania, Delaware, Connecticut and Rhode Island.  

This is not friendly territory for conservatives, even as a Republican holds the Maryland governor's mansion. President Barack Obama twice carried the state by double-digit margins. 

Early polling is not promising, suggesting that Cruz trails Trump and Kasich.

But some of the state’s 38 delegates are allocated by congressional districts, and there are fiercely conservative pockets in Maryland’s panhandle, along the Pennsylvania border and on its Eastern shore. 

At least one Maryland Republican operative argued to the Tribune that Cruz will have a tough fight against Trump for the support of these voters. 

But John Fiastro, Jr., a former Baltimore County GOP chairman, was among the Cruz supporters at the American Legion hall Monday to hear the Texas Republican speak. He is betting on Cruz's turnout operation, which will help it take advantage of Maryland's semi-proportional approach to allocating delegates.

"I think we can win all eight of our Congressional districts, and I think the state's going to go for Ted Cruz," said Fiastro, who is running to attend the summer convention. "I think the reason why is because the Cruz outreach operation is much more sophisticated than the Trump outreach." 

On Tuesday, Cruz is on to Philadelphia to attend a watch party for New York's primary results. Cruz's choice to spend Tuesday night in Philadelphia indicates his aim to challenge Trump and Kasich for some of the 71 Keystone State delegates a week later.

Its population centers, Pittsburgh and Philadelphia, are Democratic regions and frequently tip the balance of statewide elections to the Democratic column.

The middle section of the state, however, is Republican territory, and Cruz has tailored many of his speeches to appeal to the type of Rust Belt conservative voters who live in Pennsylvania. 

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