While Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton are poised to win their party primaries in New York on Tuesday, a good showing in their home state is not a matter of “if” but “by how much?”
The latest NBC4/WSJ/Marist poll shows New York native Donald Trump leading on the GOP side with 54 percent of the vote among likely New York Republican voters. No one else comes close. Ohio Gov. John Kasich is polling at 25 percent, while Texas Sen. Ted Cruz is hovering around 16 percent.
On the Democratic side, Hillary Clinton — who’s called Chappaqua, New York, her home for the last 16 years — is ahead of rival Bernie Sanders by double digits in recent polls, by all means a comfortable margin.
So why is this so crucial? Trump — who’s been struggling to reshape his staff amid recent delegate losses in Wyoming, Colorado, Georgia, Virginia and South Carolina — needs New York more than ever. A simple win is not enough. Trump needs a clean sweep (or at least win a majority of the state’s 95 delegates) to prove he can clinch the GOP nomination ahead of July’s convention in Cleveland.
To do that, he’ll have to capture more than 50 percent of the vote in each of the state’s 27 congressional districts. Anything less than 50 percent, and he’ll have to split delegates 2-1 with the runner-up.
A big win in New York could also provide Trump with the momentum he needs heading into Pennsylvania and Indiana, which have emerged — along with California — as must-wins in the GOP contest.
There is added pressure for Trump since Cruz has shown he can win even when he loses. The Texas senator has essentially cleaned out GOP state conventions, winning 14 delegates in Wyoming, while placing Cruz-friendly delegates in Virginia, Georgia and South Carolina, all states that Trump initially seemed to win.
If Trump falls short of the 1,237 magic delegate number by convention time, those delegates could vote for Cruz after the first ballot.
But Democrats could provide Tuesday night’s biggest nail-biting moment.
While Clinton is leading Sanders in the delegate count by a wide margin, the senator from Vermont has won the last seven contests. Another win — and in Clinton’s adopted home state, no less — could persuade some superdelegates to jump ship.
Sanders has been promising a win in New York in recent days, an unusual move since candidates typically lower expectations when they are behind in the polls. It’s possible he may have some internal polling that suggests the contest is closer than people think. And he’s got at least one precedent: Sanders won Wisconsin despite Clinton leading in the polls there.
But even if Sanders pulls off an upset, he’s unlikely to win by a big enough margin to make up for Clinton’s substantial lead. Unlike on the Republican side, Democratic delegates are awarded proportionally. In order for Sanders to make a significant dent in the delegate count, he needs a Christmas-day miracle.
While winning the nomination by hitting the “magic number” of delegates is all but impossible, Sanders is putting his eggs in another basket: edging Clinton in pledged delegates so he can make a case that superdelegates should reconsider their initial endorsement of Clinton.
But for that to happen, Sanders needs to win 57 percent of the vote in the remaining primaries. Let’s just say, a loss in New York would make that highly improbable.