Second look at Trump?

Donald Trump reacted to criticism from Republican presidential primary challenger Cruz Wednesday, saying that he equates “New York values” to “energy” that helped the city to persevere after the September 11th attacks.

“One thing it means is energy. You know, when the World Trade Center got hit, we rebuilt that World Trade Center and we got through and very few places in this world could have gotten through what we went through. I mean, I was so proud of New York, the World Trade Center, these two massive, 110 story buildings come down, thousands of people killed. I’ve never seen anything like it in my life. And immediately the rebuilding started,” Trump told conservative Radio host Howie Carr…

In a separate interview Wednesday on Bloomberg News’ “All Due Respect,” Trump further addressed the attack, saying, “When you knock New York, you’ve got to go through me. New York is an amazing place with amazing people.”

The more I think about Cruz’s “New York values” attack on Trump this week, the more I think it’s a silly mistake (and not just because I’m biased due to my upbringing). Here’s one reason why:

You can understand why Cruz did it. When you’re making a play for Iowa and the deep south in a Republican primary, you can’t go wrong needling the godless sodomites of NYC. Problem is, the race won’t be won or lost in Iowa and the deep south. Ironically, it’s the blue states that may decide the nominee because they come later in this year’s primary schedule, which means they can follow winner-take-all rules for awarding their delegates instead of awarding them proportionally. Even if Cruz wins Iowa and cleans up in the SEC states, he’s likely to lead fairly narrowly over the rest of the field because of the proportional awards there. Marco Rubio’s entire campaign strategy, in fact, is premised on the idea that he can afford to lose early to Cruz because he’ll make up the deficit later in winner-take-all blue states, where Republicans are more likely to favor “moderates.” Cruz would have been better off skipping the geographic dig and saying what he means. “New York values” is just an elliptical way to accuse Trump of being a dissolute big-government liberal who’s forever chasing a buck. If Cruz had the guts to say that, he could have said it and declined to insult New Yorkers generally. But he won’t hit Trump hard for fear of offending his voters so he’s forced to speak in allusions. (In the clip below, Megyn Kelly invites Cruz to define “New York values.” He refuses, of course.)

If Trump is asked about this tonight, and he probably will be, he could use it to launch a broad attack on Cruz. The rap on Cruz, after all, is that his appeal is too narrow to win a general election. Democrats in Congress hate him; centrist Republicans in Congress really hate him. He could be elected king of red-state America but he’s dead on arrival in blue and purple states, or so the theory goes. His strategy to win the presidency rests on the idea that he’ll electrify all of the conservatives and Reagan Democrats who supposedly stayed home after being demoralized by RINOs like McCain and Romney. That strategy is highly dubious, but Cruz thinks it’s a winner in states from Pennsylvania to Michigan to Wisconsin. To which Trump could say: How do you expect to win in traditionally blue areas when you can’t resist insulting the people who live there? It’s Trump, not Cruz, who’s built a coalition that crosses party lines. It’s Trump, a New Yorker born and raised, who leads in Republican polls from coast to coast because he understands the anxieties of the white working class better than Cruz, the supposed hero of flyover country, does. My pal Karl offers this line to Trump tonight when “New York values” comes up:

That’s Trump’s whole shtick distilled to a few sentences — as a wheeler-dealer in New York City, he’s scrapped with every financial, political, and media tough guy there is and he’s beaten them all. He’s battle-tested in a way Cruz could never be. The 9/11 line he uses in the clip is good too, of course, although he could go further if he wants. Another “New York value” is racial and religious diversity; Trump’s alt-right fans won’t like to hear him mention that, but they’ve been willing to ignore all of the other times he’s said “I love Mexicans” or “I love the blacks” on the trail. The media would go batsh*t if Donald Trump gave conservative ogre Ted Cruz a dressing down on national television for being insufficiently respectful of multiculturalism, especially if he praised their home base of NYC in doing so. It’s an easy way for Trump to soften his image as one of the “angry” intolerant voices that Nikki Haley complained about on Tuesday night. If Trump wants to get really cheeky, he could even throw in a crack about Cruz’s “Canadian values.” Which, let’s face it, is probably coming in one context or another anyway.

Via the Examiner, here’s Scarborough anticipating the media applause to come if Trump clashes with Cruz over this. Exit question: Ted Cruz seems pretty okay with “New York values” when he’s rattling his tin cup, no?