New York delivered big wins to a favorite son and a favorite daughter on Tuesday, as Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump dominated returns.
Clinton—who isn’t a native, but in the grand tradition of New York transplants, represented the state in the U.S. Senate—bested Senator Bernie Sanders, who spent his early years in Brooklyn and retained the accent despite his long residence in Vermont. Clinton’s win was no surprise, but she ended up beating Sanders by around 15 points, exceeding most predictions. On the Republican side, Queens native Trump cruised to a huge victory and celebrated his win at Trump Tower, where he announced his campaign with a brash and splashy press conference 10 months ago.
The Republican side was the one to watch Tuesday. Trump has dropped the last couple of nominating contests, and he’s been shellacked at state conventions across the country where delegates are selected to go to the Republican National Convention. That puts Trump in danger at a contested convention, where delegates are freed up to vote for the candidate of their choice on the second, third, or subsequent ballots (depending on state rules), and makes it even more important for him to secure the 1,237 delegates required to win the nomination outright.
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That figure has become more challenging in recent weeks, but it is not out of reach for Trump, and Tuesday’s dominant showing brought it a lot closer. By winning the state, Trump picked up 14 of its 95 delegates. But most of the GOP delegates are allocated by congressional district—any candidate who tops 50 percent clinches all three in each district, while they’re otherwise split. For John Kasich and Ted Cruz, the goal on Tuesday was simply to keep Trump under 50 percent in as many places as possible and peel off a few delegates.
It wasn’t a great night for those plans. With the votes mostly counted, Trump was on pace to take roughly 90 delegates. By Tuesday night, Cruz’s campaign had decided the Texan was unlikely to win a single delegate. He spoke before the polls had even closed at a rally in Philadelphia, where he was campaigning ahead of next Tuesday’s Pennsylvania primary, and barely mentioned Trump. (It turns out that turning an entire state’s “values” into a pejorative is not an effective tool for winning that state.) Kasich, meanwhile, had placed many hopes on New York. Lagging well behind both Trump and Cruz, the Ohioan had hoped that the Empire State’s demographics might echo his home state and give a boost to his campaign—and his argument that only he can win a general election.
Trump was jubilant but uncharacteristically brief at his victory party in Manhattan, where he was backed by his family and joined by New Yorkers from businessman Carl Icahn to former gubernatorial candidate Carl Paladino. He sought to declare the race effectively over.
“We don’t have much of a race anymore based on what I’m seeing on television. Senator Cruz is just about mathematically eliminated,” Trump said, using the Texan’s formal title rather than Trump’s usual favored epithet, “Lyin’ Ted.” But Trump also issued a threat to Republican insiders, warning that voters would not stand for him being denied the nomination if he reaches the convention with only a plurality of delegates, rather than the 1,237-delegate majority. “It’s a crooked system, it’s a system that’s rigged, and we’re going to go back to the old system,” he said. “Nobody can take an election away with the way they’re doing it in the Republican Party.”
Perhaps Trump’s brevity was intended to avoid the provocative comments he has sometimes made on election nights and elsewhere. Certainly, he seemed to be avoiding controversy. Alluding to a recent campaign shakeup, however, he said, “It’s a team of unity. People don’t understand that. The press does understand that, but they don’t want to talk about it.”
Kasich finished second to Trump, with around a quarter of the vote, and he seemed likely to peel off five delegates. Cruz finished a distant third and earned no delegates.
Bernie Sanders’s finish proved a disappointment. (Early exit polls suggesting a closer-than-expected race proved misleading.) Clinton’s home-field example helped her to an easy win. While that edge was always expected, Sanders made a play for New York, campaigning hard across the state, save a short jaunt to the Vatican over the weekend, where he spoke at an event and briefly met Pope Francis.
It’s the first bad night for Sanders in a long time. He had won seven of previous eight Democratic contests, and despite the Clinton campaign’s hopes and expectations, the Democratic race seems to be tightening as it goes forward, rather than allowing Clinton to pull away. In some polls, including the first PRRI /The Atlantic poll this month, Sanders has tied or pulled ahead. But Sanders still lags Clinton by more than 200 pledged delegates (to say nothing of superdelegates), and so he needs big wins to overtake her. The result in New York doesn’t do that for him.
“Today we have proved again there’s no place like home,” Clinton told a crowd in Manhattan. “New Yorkers, you’ve always had my back, and I’ve always tried to have yours.”
Like Trump, and not for the first time, Clinton tried to pivot to the general election and put the primary behind her. But she put that in her strongest terms yet.
"The race for the Democratic nomination is in the home stretch and victory is in sight," she said, telling Sanders supporters, “There is much more that unites us than divides us.”
As usual, Sanders far outpaced Clinton among young voters; the two candidates roughly split voters ages 30 to 44, according to exit polls. Those polls also showed the pair roughly splitting white voters, but Clinton winning African Americans 3-1 and Hispanics 2-1. She also won among the poorest voters.
Sanders barely spoke Tuesday, giving his traveling press corps the slip and jetting back to Vermont, where he held a brief press conference—most of it via conference call, with reporters still on the trail.
The results were somewhat marred by irregularities in the voting process. Reports spread of eligible voters being purged from the roles, in some cases at large scale. Some polling places reportedly opened late or voting machines were not functional. New York City Comptroller Scott Stringer promised an audit. “There is nothing more sacred in our nation than the right to vote, yet election after election, reports come in of people who were inexplicably purged from the polls, told to vote at the wrong location or unable to get into their polling site,” he said. Mayor Bill de Blasio backed Stringer.
That followed several days of complaints about the system. New York’s primary is closed, which means only registered Democrats and Republicans could vote, and the deadline to switch registration was months ago. That system put Sanders at a disadvantage, as he has drawn support from independents, and some of his backers complained that the process was unfair. Also shut out were two of Donald Trump’s children, who couldn’t vote for their father after missing the deadline to register as Republicans.
The small number of votes might have helped Trump in Manhattan, which he was on pace to lose narrowly to Kasich, and where his most prominent developments stand. Home-state status can be a boon, but too much familiarity really does breed contempt. But Manhattan was one small, 13-mile blemish for Trump on an otherwise excellent night.