Bronx, New York

It was quite a welcome for Ted Cruz. On the sidewalk outside Sabrosura 2, a “Chino-Latino" restaurant on Westchester Avenue in the East Bronx, a young red-haired man with a hooded sweatshirt and a Noo Yawk accent stood with a long selfie stick and camera extended high into the air. "You gotta be born in America to be president," the guy chanted over and over.

Joining him outside the restaurant was a Black Muslim explaining to anyone in his line of sight how Cruz's policies brought about Nazism in Germany. And inside, a pair of ball-capped young men began shouting at Cruz. "We don't want you in the Bronx, Ted Cruz!" went one, calling out Cruz for not believing in climate change and for being anti-immigrant. As the men were escorted out by security, the other protested that he was a member of the media, showing his news microphone flag for TeleSUR, a South-American-based news organization funded primarily by the Venezuelan government.

The local media added fuel to the fire, with one reporter asking Cruz to explain what he meant in January when he disparaged Donald Trump's "New York values."

"Let's be clear: The people of New York know exactly what those values are," said Cruz, beginning an answer he'll likely have to give every day until the April 19 primary. "They're the values of liberal Democratic politicians like Andrew Cuomo, like Anthony Weiner, like Eliot Spitzer, like Charlie Rangel, all of whom Donald Trump has supported."

Inside the restaurant was a friendlier but smaller crowd, primarily Hispanic with a smattering of Orthodox Jews, one of the more reliably conservative voting groups in New York. But the modest turnout — the members of the media easily matched the locals— underscored how few Republicans there are in this part of town. You could easily fit all the Republicans in this neighborhood on a subway car, with room to spare.

In an interview with The Weekly Standard, Cruz explained that he went to the Bronx for two reasons: to talk about small businesses and to meet with a group of 40 local pastors. The latter reason is more compelling. Of New York's 95 delegates to the Republican National Convention, 81 will be allocated evenly to each of the state's 27 congressional districts, while 14 will be awarded proportionally based on the statewide vote. Each district awards proportionally the same three delegates, from the most Republican-leaning district in western New York to the state's (and the nation's) most heavily Democratic district in, well, the Bronx.

In that district, just 285 people voted in the 2012 Republican primary for president. Overall, in a borough with nearly 1.5 million people, fewer than 1,400 Bronx Republicans voted in that year's primary. That's a small number of voters Cruz would need to convince to pick off some delegates from Trump. So courting Bronx pastors could pay dividends.

"If they get active in their churches on Sunday and say, for those of you who are registered Republican, come out and vote for Cruz, that could help Cruz win a district," says Rob Astorino, the county executive in suburban Westchester County and the GOP's 2014 nominee for governor. Astorino adds the best way for Cruz to do that would be to connect to the Hispanic evangelical community's social conservatism.

Which is exactly what Cruz did. "We had a terrific conversation about our shared values," he told me. Leading the conversation in the restaurant's private room was local state senator Rev. Rubén Díaz, a black Puerto Rican and Democrat who has allied himself with the Republican majority in Albany. (Díaz's son, the borough president of the Bronx, is an active supporter of Hillary Clinton.)

Wearing a black cowboy hat, the elder Díaz spoke primarily in Spanish as he led the group in prayer — head down, Cruz placed his hand on his wife Heidi and nodded along — and welcomed the Cuban-American Republican to the neighborhood. After Cruz admitted in Spanish that he understood his father's mother tongue but did not speak it well, he switched back to English to make his pitch. The group shook their heads in agreement as Cruz touted his support for the pro-life position. Heidi, he said, would be "the first pro-life first lady." Díaz let out a loud, approving "oooh!"

Erick Salgado, a Staten Island political gadfly who ran for mayor of New York as a self-proclaimed "conservative Democrat," asked Cruz about the issues of gay marriage and transgendered people in public restrooms. "When it comes to life and when it comes to marriage, we need a president who will stand up and defend both," Cruz proclaimed. Salgado looked pleased as he applauded loudly.

Cruz also tested an appeal for public school choice in what sounded like a general-election line. "Both parties have failed," he said. He noted Democrats were too beholden to teachers' unions' objections to school choice before aiming his sights on the GOP. "The Republican party, my party, has been far too often apathetic about this." The reason, Cruz offered, is that the GOP's voters aren't as likely to have kids in failing schools as those minority groups who usually vote Democratic. It was hard not to notice how many times Cruz casually referred to "our" Hispanic community.

Will any of this matter? The latest polls have Trump clearing the 50 percent mark of support in New York, enough to win all 14 at-large delegates and the vast majority of the congressional-district delegates. In several polls, Cruz comes not in second behind Trump but in third, behind Ohio governor John Kasich. One veteran New York Republican says Kasich, not Cruz, has a better chance of taking away congressional-district delegates from Trump in the suburban areas around New York City.

At one point, Kasich's relative strength in the suburbs seemed like a real problem for Cruz in Wisconsin, but a funny thing happened in the Badger State. Polls showed a clear movement in the final days before the April 5 primary away from Kasich and toward Cruz, suggesting Republicans opposed to Trump figured their best way of stopping the frontrunner was to rally behind Cruz. That helped deliver big margins for Cruz in the Milwaukee suburbs on his way to winning statewide by 13 points. But Cruz also had the support of Wisconsin governor Scott Walker and most of the state's conservative talk-radio hosts. The veteran Republican says an anti-Trump consolidation strategy in New York, where Cruz has fewer friends, will be a tougher job.

"Cruz kind of shot himself in the foot with his statement about New York values," said the Republican. "Kasich is more of a Pataki Republican." That may be, but George Pataki, the three-term New York governor and the last Republican to hold that office, is starting to sound like a Cruz Republican.

"I think Ted Cruz has a real shot of surprising and doing really well," he says. Pataki, who dropped out of the presidential race earlier this year and later endorsed Marco Rubio, adds that he's not ready to endorse a new candidate yet but that Cruz, not Kasich, has the "best chance" of defeating Trump for the nomination. He agrees with Astorino that Cruz's apparent strategy of targeting minority-heavy districts in New York City could help minimize the success Trump will otherwise enjoy in his home state.

But Cruz will have to work even harder to re-create the Wisconsin effect in the New York suburbs. For his part, Cruz says he's up to the job.

"From the beginning, our task has been to unite the 65 to 70 percent of the Republicans who recognize that Donald Trump is not the best candidate to go up against Hillary Clinton," he tells me. "That dynamic of the party uniting behind our campaign is only going to accelerate, and that's why I believe we're on a path to beat Donald for the nomination."

Cruz may be on that path, but the section through New York will be uphill, rocky, and treacherous.

Michael Warren is a staff writer at The Weekly Standard.