WASHINGTON - The two front-runners in the race for the White House, Democrat Hillary Clinton and Republican Donald Trump, expect to win big in next Tuesday’s New York primary. Both contenders have deep roots in New York and victories would give their campaigns a boost after recent setbacks.
Public opinion polls give Trump a huge lead in New York, topping 50 percent of the vote in some surveys. That would give him the lion’s share of the 95 delegates at stake in New York on the Republican side on Tuesday.
At this point, Trump needs to collect all the delegates he can, given the success that rival Ted Cruz has had in picking up the support of so-called “unbound” Republican delegates around the country and in local and state conventions where delegates are chosen.
Trump complains - Cruz says it’s whining
Trump was upset after Cruz lined up the support of delegates in Colorado and fired off a new round of salvos at the Republican establishment over rules governing delegate selection that Trump believes are unfair.
“I’m millions of votes ahead, which they don’t even talk about,” Trump told a rally in the New York state capital of Albany. “They never even mention it. They talk about delegates. And I’m hundreds of delegates ahead; but, the system, folks, is rigged. It’s a rigged, disgusting, dirty system. It’s a dirty system.”
Cruz fired back at Trump at a rally in Irvine, California, saying the New York billionaire is whining and is trying to bully the party and intimidate delegates.
“Nominating Donald Trump would be a train wreck and that if Donald Trump is the nominee, Hillary Clinton wins and she wins by double digits,” Cruz said to cheers.
Kasich seeks to be relevant
Cruz is running well behind Trump in New York as is Ohio Governor John Kasich, who has cast himself as an optimistic alternative to his two rivals.
“Some who feed off of the fears and the anger that is felt by some of us and exploit it feed their own insatiable desires for fame or attention,” Kasich told a Republican women’s group in Manhattan. “That could drive America down into a ditch and not make us great again.”
Kasich apparently hopes to hang in the race until the national convention in Cleveland in July and be available as an alternative candidate should Trump stumble and not win the nomination outright on the first ballot.
Anti-Trump forces within the Republican Party are bracing for a big Trump victory in New York on Tuesday and the possibility of more Trump triumphs April 26 when primaries are held in Connecticut, Delaware, Maryland, Pennsylvania and Rhode Island.
One key Republican who apparently will not be part of blocking Trump is House Speaker Paul Ryan. Ryan sought to quell speculation this week that he might be available as a compromise candidate if the Republican convention in July becomes deadlocked.
“If no candidate has a majority on the first ballot, I believe that you should only choose from a person who has actually participated in the primary. Count me out,” Ryan told reporters at a Capitol Hill news conference.
Clinton leads testy Democratic race
The Democratic race in New York is a battle between two contenders with deep roots there. Front-runner Hillary Clinton represented the Empire State in the Senate, while rival Bernie Sanders was born and brought up in Brooklyn.
Public opinion polls show Clinton holding a steady lead in New York and in several surveys, it is a double-digit edge. Clinton hopes to reverse Sanders’ recent momentum and build her lead in the delegate count.
The New York campaign has intensified the competition between the two Democrats and both contenders have been more aggressive in calling out the other.
“I have noticed that under the bright spotlight and scrutiny here in New York that Senator Sanders has had trouble answering questions, questions about his core issue, namely dealing with the banks,” Clinton told reporters during a campaign swing through the New York City borough of Queens.
Sanders was vague on how he would rein in the big banks in an interview with the New York Daily News. He also had to walk back comments that Clinton was “not qualified” to be president because of some of the corporate campaign contributions she has received.
Sanders still draws crowds and money
Sanders drew a crowd of more than 20,000 Wednesday night in Manhattan’s Washington Square Park, the latest indication that while he continues to trail in the delegate count, he still draws large crowds and lots of money to his campaign.
“We have won seven out of the last eight caucuses and primaries,” he told enthusiastic supporters. “And when I look at an unbelievable crowd like this, I believe we are going to win here in New York next Tuesday!”
Coming into the New York campaign, a lot of the focus was on the rough-and-tumble Republican nomination battle. Analysts, however, note that the Democratic campaign has also reached a new level of acrimony.
“It’s getting nastier and nastier, not just on the Republican side but on the Democratic side where you’ve got the two contenders, Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders, accusing each other of being unqualified to be president, which is just ludicrous on its face,” Tom DeFrank told VOA’s “Issues in the News.” DeFrank is a veteran journalist with the National Journal and has covered every presidential campaign since 1968.
If Clinton can pull off a convincing win in New York on Tuesday and follow up with victories in the five northeastern primaries set for April 26, she will no doubt increase the pressure on the Sanders campaign to move toward the prospect of uniting behind Clinton as the nominee and begin to focus more seriously on the Republicans for the general election campaign.