NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) — All three Republican presidential candidates spoke at the New York State Republican Committee’s annual gala in Midtown Thursday night.

CBS2’s Marcia Kramer reported front-runner Donald Trump, Sen. Ted Cruz and Ohio Gov. John Kasich came to the annual dinner at the Grand Hyatt to plead for support.

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Trump delivered an impassioned defense of the city he calls home. The billionaire businessman praised the city’s response to the nation’s deadliest terrorist attacks in remarks designed to jab leading rival Ted Cruz, who has repeatedly condemned “New York values” in his push to defeat the New York real estate mogul.

“In our darkest moments, as a city we showed the world the very, very best in terms of bravery, heart and soul of America,” Trump charged. “These are the values we need to make America great again.”

Trump talked at length about all the things he’s built in New York from the hotel where the dinner was held to the Wollman Skating Rink. He also took a shot at Mayor Bill de Blasio.

“Our mayor has to be careful because he can blow it very quickly if he keeps going the way he’s going,” Trump said.

As Kramer reported, protesters focused on Trump were out ahead of time at the hotel. They hung an effigy of the billionaire businessman and chanted, “How do you spell racist? T-R-U-M-P.”

But Trump in particular was determined to prove that New York is his kind of town, and that the primary will be the springboard to clinching the nomination.

During the dinner, Kasich offered a mea culpa for using utensils to eat a slice of pizza.

“I really do believe that the folks of New York will forgive me for that big mistake I made when I had that scalding piece of pizza and actually took a fork and touched the pizza pie with it,” Kasich joked.

Cruz warned the crowd what would happen if Hillary Clinton was elected president.

“If we cannot win the election, if Hillary Clinton becomes the next president for four or eight more years, the people of New York know full well what comes from that,” the senator from Texas said.

New Mexico Gov. Susanna Martinez, who was the guest of honor, came up with a “solution” to nominate a Republican candidate.

“Why don’t we just use rock, paper, scissors and get this over with?” Martinez said. “I think that’s a good idea.”

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Trump aides told CBS2’s Kramer that the billionaire will glide to the nomination.

Trump appeared at a Suffolk County Republican fundraiser earlier Thursday. Meanwhile, his advisers were telling top Republicans there will be no convention fight and Trump will get the nomination.

“I don’t see how we don’t do very well in New York. I don’t see how we don’t do very well the next week,” Said Trump adviser Ed Brookover. “I think we’re on a glide path.”

Team Trump was in Capitol Hill Thursday, meeting with members of Congress who have endorsed him in candidacy. They outlined a scenario in which Trump will go into the Republican National Convention in Cleveland with 1,265 delegates – 28 more than the 1,237 needed to get the GOP nomination.

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“We talked about 1,237, and I can tell you we got to 1,265 in a conservative way, and we all know that’s the key,” said U.S. Rep. Chris Collins (R-N.Y.)

The scenario is apparently based on Trump getting nearly all the 95 GOP delegates in New York state, and the race continuing through the California primary on June 7.

The latest New York GOP primary poll by Siena College gave Trump 50 percent of the vote, Kasich 27 percent, ad Cruz 17 percent.

The strategy for both Kasich and Cruz – in New York and throughout the rest of the primaries – is to win enough delegates to stop Trump and force a battle at the convention. Kasich and Cruz’s arguments are similar.

“We got to go district by district, get these delegates, head to the convention. We’re winning in the polls against Hillary where nobody else does,” Kasich said. “It’s not going to be, you know, who has X number of delegates. It’s going to be who can win in the fall and actually, who can be president.”

Outside Buffalo, Cruz also played the Hillary Clinton card.

“Nationwide, about 70 percent of Republicans recognize that if Donald Trump is the nominee, Hillary Clinton wins. Hillary beats Donald Trump by double digits,” Cruz said. “If I’m the nominee, we beat Hillary.”

The dinner on Thursday night marked the first time the three candidates have been together since they decided to abandon a loyalty pledge to support whomever was the party nominee.

Earlier, Trump drew protests over his appearance at a GOP fundraiser near the site of an immigrant’s murder in Patchogue.

Activists said Trump’s appearance opens old anti-immigrant wounds in light of his tough talk about building a wall on the Mexican border and other rhetoric and could undo the progress that’s been made in the Long Island community.

The gala to raise funds for Republican candidates across eastern Long Island was held in a nightclub about 200 yards from where an Ecuadorean immigrant, Marcelo Lucero, was murdered by a gang of teens in a 2008 hate crime attack.

Also Thursday, Kasich hosted a town hall in Jericho where he was asked about the high cost of living forcing younger voters to live with their parents.

“We have to have economic growth. It’s a thing that solves so many problems and we get economic growth if we don’t crush small business by putting stupid rules on them and we lower taxes and we have a reasonable plan to get the budget balanced,” Kasich said.

The Ohio governor was also asked what he would tell his children if they came out as gay.

“I would say, ‘I love you girls,’ end of it,” Kasich responded.

Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, was campaigning in upstate New York, saying that despite all the mudslinging, he believes the Republican Party is coming together.

“We have to be united. We have to stand together if we’re going to win this nomination and we have to be united and stand together if we’re going to win the general and beat Hillary Clinton,” Cruz said.

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