New York has been and gone, reaffirming the frontrunner status of both Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump.
One of the largest states to vote yet, the New York primary leaves the Republican and Democratic races for President with some important takeaways.
Sanders Falls Far Short to Hometown Hillary
Polls in New York showed that the Clinton-Sanders contest, which reached its most antagonistic point yet in the Empire State, was closing. Despite New York being Hillary’s political home, having served twice as Senator for the state, there were several signs that a late Sanders-surge could upset the Clinton camp. The Sanders camp was laying the PR groundwork that a loss of 4-7% could be spun as a victory for the Senator from Vermont.
The upset never materialised. Clinton won by 16%, laying an empathic claim to one of the most prized jewels in the race for the Democratic nomination.
In the wider context of the Democratic race, New York assumed a broader significance. Senator Sanders desperately needed to perform well in the state: despite consecutive wins in a handful of sparsely populated western states, Sanders’ populist anti-Wall Street message had not yet managed to catch up with Hillary’s ‘natural Obama successor’ campaign in terms of delegates or votes.
Going into New York Sanders needed to win around 65% of remaining delegates, and potentially even more if Clinton’s advantage with super delegates remained intact.
That meant large states like New York were particularly important: for every loss in these states, that proportion rises ever higher, to unachievable levels.
Bernie Sanders needed to at least keep New York close, perhaps within 5%, for the sake of delegate mathematics and media narrative. Instead he was blown out of the water, as Clinton withstood his sharper criticisms over the past two weeks to cruise to a New York lead of almost 300,000 votes.
April 26th Could Finish Sanders
With the above in mind, the implications of New York take on extra significance when considered with the upcoming competitions in the north-east.
On April 26th a handful of northeastern states vote: Connecticut, Maryland, Delaware, Rhode Island,and Pennsylvania. Hillary Clinton enjoys the widest leads in the two largest of these states, Maryland and Pennsylvania, which carry 118 and 210 delegates respectively (compared to New York’s 291).
The Sanders’ campaign revelled in his western wins during late March and early April, but these were delegate-poor states. Idaho with 23. Utah with 33.Wyoming, 14. Alaska, 16. Even Sanders’ most impressive win, in Washington, was only fought over 101 delegates.
Simply put, the much discussed momentum of the Sanders’ campaign was developed in parts of the country that are relatively low in terms of population and therefore delegates.
If Hillary Clinton retains her lead in polls in Maryland and Pennsylvania, not to mention her narrower leads in the other three states, the gap between her and Senator Sanders will become gaping, and his chances for the nomination completely voided.
Ohio Governor John Kasich, one of the only moderates in the Republican race from the offset, managed to persuade a few in conservative ranks why he should remain in the Republican race for the nomination after his home-state win in Ohio.
His logic rested on three component parts. Firstly, he held the best chance of beating Hillary Clinton the general election, as shown by polls of a hypothetical Kasich-Clinton election. Second, as an optimistic and positive moderate, he argued that he could unify the party if the Trump-Cruz cataclysm left the GOP rudderless. Lastly, as Governor of a key midwestern swing state, he might be able to win primaries in other states in that region.
However, New York should have been a boost for Kasich, yet he walks away with 25% of the vote and a measly 4 delegates. The larger issue is that Kasich is almost 20% down to Trump in polls of Pennsylvania: Kasich’s relevance relied on his competitiveness in states just like this one, and Pennsylvania above all others given its delegate count.
If Kasich can only win his home state, and continues to underperform expectations, he has zero mandate to claim the nomination, and will be seen as an unwelcome drag of delegates away from Cruz, the candidate many GOP insiders now back as their only anti-Trump weapon.
New York Means Nothing for Trump vs Cruz: Indiana and California Do
The Trump win in New York was no shock. He lead polls by a wide margin going into the primary, and given his prominence in the state and the socio-economic composition of rural New York, a victory was all but certain.
It also didn’t hurt that earlier in the campaign Ted Cruz derided Trump’s ‘New York values’, probably on the logic that the relative advantage of that comment in the midwest was worth yielding what is effectively Trump’s home state later in the race.
The question for Republicans now is whether Donald Trump can reach 1237 delegates before the Republican National Convention in July. Given polls standing as they currently do (Trump taking the lion’s share of the north east, Cruz winning Nebraska, Montana and South Dakota, while other remaining states split relatively evenly) that question now relies on two states: Indiana and California.
California, which votes on June 7th, is important simply because of its size. 172 delegates are awarded there in a somewhat complex format, compared to the 95 in New York.
Indiana, on the other hand, delivers 57 delegates on May 3rd in a winner-take-all primary. Kasich supporters believe he has a chance to exceed expectations in Indiana, a neighbouring state of his Ohio, but Ted Cruz is hoping that his wins in demographically and geographically similar states in the midwest will give him push him past Trump’s current poll leads.
Those 57 delegates could be pivotal when it comes to the final 1237 target for Donald Trump. All the while Ted Cruz is laying the groundwork for a contested convention by winning over delegates who, though pledged to Trump, will likely switch to Cruz on a second-ballot. For that scenario to come about, however, Cruz must deny Trump enough votes in Indiana and California.