PHILADELPHIA -- Bracing for a massive home-state victory by Donald Trump on Tuesday, Ted Cruz largely ignored the billionaire in a brand new speech that focused on his outsider status and a theme of hope.
While the Manhattan mogul's presence loomed large, Trump got nothing more than a veiled jab from Cruz.
"I'm so excited to share with you what America has learned over the past few months. And it has nothing to do with a politician winning his home state tonight," Cruz said without offering any congratulations.
The Texas Senator spoke at the National Constitution Center in Philadelphia, the site of President Obama's speech 2008 on race and referenced the then freshman Senator famous "yes we can" slogan multiple times.
"Our sitting president ran on a slogan that should have been a great first step," Cruz said. "It promised us, 'yes we can.' Now it is time to take that slogan and put it into action."
Playing off that, he concluded his speech by declaring, "not only do we say 'yes we can', beginning here and now we pledge once again 'yes we will!'"
It was a relatively staid affair, with a sit-down audience and no large televisions blaring CNN. Two days beforehand the event was initially billed two days ago as an "election night watch party," which was later changed to a "Pennsylvania kickoff event"
In his speech, Cruz described the 2016 election as "the year of the outsider" comparing himself to Bernie Sanders. "I am an outsider, Bernie Sanders is an outsider. Both with the same diagnosis, but both with very different paths to healing," Cruz told the audience. That's a point that he makes occasionally at town halls but a departure from the usual Cruz speech.
Over the past week, the Cruz campaign has downplayed expectations for the New York primary. In a Tuesday interview Cruz told Fox host Bill O'Reilly that Trump "will do well in his home state. When we were in Texas, my home state, we walloped him."
He has also acknowledged that a large Trump victory in New York effectively forecloses his chances to win the nomination before the GOP convention, telling a Wyoming audience over the weekend, "We're in all likeliness going to have a battle in Cleveland."
On Wednesday, Cruz heads to Hershey, PA for a rally and on Thursday goes to Fredrick, Maryland, two Mid-Atlantic states where the campaign believes they have an opportunity to pick off more delegates.