NY flurry likely to favour front-runners

By Chris Cillizza

Clinton and Trump reach out to New Yorkers in delegate-rich state.
Illustration / Rod Emmerson
Illustration / Rod Emmerson

The most raucous nominating contest of an already acrimonious presidential race drew to a close with a flurry of retail politicking in New York that appeared likely to strengthen the trajectory of the two front-runners.

Democrat Hillary Clinton spent the day reaching out to New Yorkers. She visited a hospital cafeteria in Yonkers, met workers at a unionised car wash in Queens and sipped "bubble tea" at Kung Fu Tea counter in Flushing.

Republican Donald Trump fronted for a photo op at his own Trump Tower in Manhattan with a new "diversity coalition". The group, representing many ethnic groups, is trying to fight accusations that Trump has stoked racial and ethnic tensions with his anti-immigrant and anti-Muslim rhetoric.

Polls have shown both candidates ahead by double-digit margins before today's New York primary. A big win for Trump would bring him closer to winning an outright majority of 95 Republican delegates - an outcome that remains at risk and that has prompted rival Ted Cruz to mount a campaign to force a contested convention.

For Clinton, a victory would boost her momentum in a state worth 291 delegates and perhaps give a new mandate to more openly pivot her campaign to prepare for the general election. Clinton is so far ahead in the delegate count against Senator Bernie Sanders it has become close to impossible for him to catch up.

"I am hoping to do really well," she said at Mikey Likes It Ice Cream in Manhattan. "I am hoping to wrap up the Democratic nomination."

Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton speaks during a campaign stop. Photo / AP
Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton speaks during a campaign stop. Photo / AP

The Sanders campaign has played down his prospects in New York, citing the state's closed primary, which doesn't allow the participation of independents. But Sanders has drawn tens of thousands of supporters at rallies in recent days, and he spent much of the day shaking hands during appearances around New York City.

The senator strolled down the Avenue of the Americas, greeting surprised Manhattanites over the course of 15 city blocks. The scene repeated itself in the Bronx, where he posed for dozens of selfies with bystanders during a walk with his entourage in a busy retail district. He also visited a public housing project, where he said a closed playground and community centre were unacceptable "in the wealthiest nation in the history of the world".

Clinton has tailored her message in New York to her tenure as the state's senator for eight years, calling upon voters to remember the work she did.

But she has also sought to use Trump and New York's diversity to make a sweeping case that the primary - and the election on a whole - is about a choice between her vision for the future and Trump's divisive rhetoric.

"I am so proud of New York," Clinton said. "Lady Liberty stands in our harbour. We are a city of immigrants, a state of immigrants and a nation of immigrants."

Trump has accused Cruz of being dishonest and too close to special interests. He also highlighted his message of economic populism. Like Sanders, Cruz is bracing for a loss in New York, polling behind not only Trump in recent surveys but also Ohio Governor John Kasich, whose only primary victory so far came in his home state. Cruz was already looking ahead to a string of upcoming contests in Eastern states, including Maryland.

For Trump, a strong win in New York could help him recover from recent setbacks.

Chris Cillizza: Unpopular, or more unpopular?

Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., waves to media and supporters. Photo / AP
Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., waves to media and supporters. Photo / AP

Take two minutes to flip through the new NBC-Wall Street Journal poll and you get two very clear impressions: Hillary Clinton is deeply vulnerable in a general election and Donald Trump and, to a lesser extent, Ted Cruz, are the exactly wrong rivals to take advantage.

That is the reality facing Republicans. A totally winnable race that may be unwinnable - or close to it - because of a primary process that has put forward two of their least appealing general election candidates.

Just 32 per cent of general election voters see Clinton in a positive light while 56 per cent regard her negatively. That's Clinton's worst score since early 2001. The simple fact is that Clinton is totally known by the general electorate and somewhere between mildly and strongly disliked by a majority of them.

That's a problem. In a "normal" election year it's a really BIG problem. This is not a normal election year. So, yes, Clinton is unpopular. But just 24 per cent of respondents give Trump a positive rating while 65 per cent give him a negative one. Seven in 10 women view Trump negatively! Three in four millennials! Eight in 10 Hispanics!

Those numbers are historically bad. They make it virtually impossible for a candidate to win a general election.

Cruz is not Trump. But neither is he popular - 26 per cent of people had a positive view of him, against 49 per cent who had a negative view. My guess is Cruz's Senate record would give Democratic groups as well as Clinton's campaign ample opposition research to cast the Texan as too conservative for the average swing voter.

Republican presidential candidate, Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, points as he speaks at a campaign stop at Waukesha County Exposition Center. Photo / AP
Republican presidential candidate, Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, points as he speaks at a campaign stop at Waukesha County Exposition Center. Photo / AP

You can't beat an unpopular person with someone even less popular.

If Clinton and Trump are the two nominees, which still seems the most likely outcome, you can expect a race-to-the-bottom the likes of which have been rarely seen even in presidential politics. Given where each candidate's numbers stand, the only way to win will be to make it a choice between bad and worse. Clinton seems poised to win that fight - by a wide margin against Trump and a narrower margin against Cruz.

How the race may shake out

1. PredictWise: Trump and Clinton

The research project led by David Rothschild, an economist at Microsoft Research, aggregates betting-market data and has successfully predicted the winner in 55 of 65 state nominating contests so far this year. PredictWise gave Republican Donald Trump a 98 per cent chance of winning New York state. On the Democratic side, PredictWise gives Hillary Clinton a 91 per cent chance of winning.

2. RealClearPolitics: Trump and Clinton

The poll averaging and aggregating site has Trump receiving support from just over 52 per cent of likely New York Republican voters - a number that's held more or less steady for about three weeks. Clinton has support from more than 53 per cent of likely Democratic voters. Bernie Sanders trails by about 13 points.

3. Bing: Trump and Clinton

With a roughly 79 per cent accuracy rating so far this cycle, Bing predicts Trump will win with exactly 50 per cent of the vote. Clinton is projected to take the state with nearly 55 per cent of the vote, according to the "machine-learned predictive model" that the Microsoft search engine created. It parses data from polls, prediction markets, search engine queries, and social-media posts.

4. FiveThirtyEight: Trump and Clinton

FiveThirtyEight, which is run by former New York Times stats guru Nate Silver, gave Trump a greater-than-99-per cent chance of winning New York. The site uses weighted state poll averages in addition to a model that combines those averages with national poll numbers and the effect of endorsements. Clinton has a 98 per cent chance of winning.

5. Political Insiders: Trump (barely) and Clinton

New York's Republican establishment has largely kept to the sidelines in the party's presidential primary, though Trump can at least claim the backing of two of the state's congressmen: Tom Reed and Chris Collins. John Kasich has the support of former New York senator Al D'Amato. On the Democratic side, the ledger is far more lopsided. Clinton has the loyalty of the state's entire Democratic congressional delegation, plus Governor Andrew Cuomo.

- Washington Post

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