New York voters headed to the polls Tuesday for presidential nominating primaries, with pre-election surveys showing Democrat Hillary Clinton and Republican Donald Trump holding strong leads over their challengers.
A decisive win for Clinton, a former U.S. secretary of state, would move her closer to becoming the first woman to be a major party U.S. presidential nominee. A convincing victory for Trump, a billionaire real estate mogul who has never held elective office, would keep alive his hopes of clinching the Republican nomination before the party's July presidential nominating convention.
Both Clinton and Trump have strong ties to the state. Clinton has made it her adopted home and twice won Senate races in the state, while Trump has developed numerous properties in New York City and lives in a luxury high-rise building that bears his name.
The latest political surveys showed Clinton, the wife of former U.S. president Bill Clinton, with a double-digit percentage edge over her sole competitor, Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, who has attacked her financial ties to Wall Street corporate chiefs.
Trump has been collecting about 50 percent of the Republican vote in the pre-election New York polls, far ahead of his two challengers, Texas Senator Ted Cruz, a conservative firebrand, and Ohio Governor John Kasich, who has called for a more seasoned approach to governing than the brash Trump.
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Even with a Trump victory, analysts are waiting to see whether he reaches a majority in the vote count in localized congressional districts. The Republican rules in New York call for the winner in each district, if he reaches 50 percent, to get all three national convention delegates, but only two of the three if he fails to reach a majority vote, with the other going to the second-place finisher.
New York's 291 Democratic convention delegates are generally being split, according to the vote count.
Heading into Tuesday, Clinton led Sanders 1,758 - 1,076, including several hundred so-called super delegates who have pledged support for her but are free to change their minds. She needs 2,383 to be the party nominee in November's national election to pick the successor to President Barack Obama when he leaves office next January.
Because of the proportional way in which the Democrats award delegates in their contests, Sanders needs to win by big margins in order to catch up. Clinton's campaign manager, Robby Mook, said Monday the senator has a "close to impossible path to the nomination."
On the Republican side, Cruz and Kasich are trying to win enough of New York's 95 convention delegates to keep Trump from being able to clinch the 1,237 majority necessary to seal the party's nomination before its convention.
Trump entered Tuesday with 744 delegates, while Cruz had 559 and Kasich 144.
Generally, the delegates Trump has won in the months-long, state-by-state voting are only obligated to vote for him on the first convention ballot, but could switch their allegiance to Cruz or Kasich on a second and subsequent ballots until someone wins a majority of the votes and the nomination.