The city’s delegate tally is decisive in the race for the US presidency, and Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton could win their parties’ nominations there next Tuesday, says Bette Browne.

NEXT Tuesday, April 19, is shaping up to be the battle for New York in the US presidential election, with Democratic and Republican candidates fighting to amass enough votes to become their party’s undisputed standard-bearer.

On the Republican side, much of the focus is on frontrunner, Donald Trump, who will be battling rivals, Ted Cruz and John Kasich, for 95 nominating votes, which could seal the deal for him as the party’s nominee.

Ted Cruz
Ted Cruz

But for Democrats, too, it will be a high-stakes fight, for 233 nominating votes, between frontrunner, Hillary Clinton, and her surging rival, Bernie Sanders.

The New York delegate tally is one of the biggest prizes in the race and will be enough to all-but crown Clinton as the nominee.

A win for Sanders, however, would propel him decisively into the next contests, in delegate-rich Pennsylvania and New Jersey and onto California, which will award the bumper prize of 405 delegates in the final contest, in June.

The race was never meant to be like this for Clinton, who, by now, was supposed to have wrapped up the nomination. But Sanders has thwarted her plan with wins in a slew of contests. The question, now, is can he win again in New York and, this time, inflict a potentially lethal blow to her ambitions, as Barack Obama did in the 2008 race?

Barack Obama
Barack Obama

Sanders has raised the stakes on Clinton in each of the last three months and has won seven of the last eight contests. All of which is good, in theory, but, in practice, he’s not winning in the states that Democrats will need in the November election.

Clinton has swept the African-American vote in every state in the South and has won key, white or Latino-dominated states, like Texas, Ohio, Florida and Illinois, that have large delegate tallies, while the majority of Sanders’ wins have been in mostly white-dominated caucus contests that award fewer delegates.

To capture the nomination, the winning candidate must secure 2,383 delegates going into the party’s convention in July. Clinton has a lead of 260 delegates, which expands to 700 if one counts super-delegates, who are mostly elected party officials. These super-delegates are unpledged, so Sanders could woo some to his side, but he’ll need to win New York, and other big primaries, for that to become a realistic plan.

Indeed, Clinton has pulled so far ahead of him that he would have to win about 60% of the delegates still up for grabs to get the nomination.

Unless he can win New York, it will prove very difficult, if not impossible, for him to catch up on her, because most of the remaining state contests are based, like that of New York, on proportional representation. So, unless he has huge victories, his delegate number is always going to fall short.

Thus, a win in New York is essential for Sanders, just as a loss for Clinton would be seriously damaging for her.

Bernie Sanders
Bernie Sanders

The battle is also being fought on what both rivals consider home turf. Clinton, though originally a Chicago native, made New York her home when she became the state’s senator 16 years ago. She has remained popular there and was credited with securing much-needed congressional help for the state after the 9/11 attacks.

But Sanders, now a senator for Vermont, was born in Brooklyn and spent much of his early years there. During a recent campaign rally, he drew 15,000 people.

“This campaign is about creating a political revolution,” he told the enthusiastic crowd. “You are the heart and soul of this revolution.” Still, his “revolution” didn’t fare that well when he sat down with the editorial board of the New York Daily News to seek the paper’s endorsement.

Time and again, a transcript showed, when pressed to get beyond his rhetoric on the evils of corporate America and Wall Street and explore the details and consequences of his policies, he struggled with his answers.

In recent days, both candidates have taken the gloves off, each portraying the other as not sufficiently qualified for the presidency, or for the task of beating Trump in the general election.

A poll on Tuesday, however, showed Clinton maintaining her lead, at 55%, to 41% for Sanders. On the Republican side, it showed Trump well in the lead, at 54%, with Kasich jumping to second place, at 21%, and Cruz, at 18%.

Donald Trump
Donald Trump

Meanwhile, Trump seems to relish being back in his home state for the fight against Cruz and Kasich, for 95 nominating votes.

But, in New York, the tycoon is fighting not only against Cruz and Kasich, but also against an emboldened “stop Trump” movement within the Republican establishment, buoyed by a big Trump loss to Cruz, in Wisconsin, earlier this month.

It’s not that the establishment favours Cruz. It’s more that they find him slightly more palatable than Trump and view him, not Kasich, as their last chance to block Trump from securing the 1,237 delegates he needs for the nomination.

As it stands now, after his Wisconsin win, just 200 delegates separate Cruz from Trump. But if Trump can regain the momentum with a big victory in New York, he’s back on track to win the nomination outright and avoid a contested convention battle that could deprive him of the prize.

The Trump campaign is also benefiting from Cruz’s unpopularity in New York. Many Republicans in the state still remember how, earlier in the campaign, Cruz attacked what he called Trump’s “New York values”.

“Everyone understands that the values in New York City are socially liberal or pro-abortion or pro-gay marriage,” Cruz said. “Not a lot of conservatives come out of Manhattan.”

New York City
New York City

It was hardly surprising, then, that when Cruz came to campaign in the city he was given the cold shoulder. The New York Daily News front page told Cruz to take the “F U Train” after campaigning there last week, and the state’s senior Republican congressman, Peter King, said New Yorkers considering voting for Cruz “should have their head examined.”

But, finally, New York is about to have its own say in shaping the closing stages of the nominating race for the Republican and Democratic contenders. So, as the song says, “it’s up to you, New York, New York.”

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