The two presidential front-runners, Democrat Hillary Clinton and Republican Donald Trump, are in a New York state of mind as they look ahead to Tuesday's presidential primary in the Empire State. Public opinion polls show both Clinton and Trump are the favorites to win in New York, and victories there would solidify their status as favorites for the party nominations. 

For Trump, a big win in his home state could be a major step toward securing his party's nomination.

"On Tuesday, you have go out and you have to vote. You have to get your friends. Because we have a movement going on. It is a movement like they've never seen in this country," Trump told supporters at a recent rally in Syracuse.

Stepping stone to nomination

Trump's campaign insists he will be able to secure the 1,237 delegates he needs to claim the Republican nomination outright at the national convention in Cleveland in July. In order to make that happen, however, Trump needs to win virtually all of the 95 delegates at stake in New York. There are 14 statewide delegates at stake in Tuesday's primary, and the rest of delegates are awarded by congressional district.

Supporters of Republican presidential candidate Do
FILE - Supporters of Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump try to get autographs after a rally at Griffiss International Airport in Rome, New York, April 12, 2016.

Some analysts have noticed a softer tone from Trump in recent days, though he still complains about a "rigged" and "dirty" delegate selection process in some states in which rival Ted Cruz has been able to take advantage. Cruz won all 14 delegates in Wyoming after this weekend's state convention.

But Trump is doing his best to talk up party unity in hopes of rebounding from his defeat at the hands of Cruz in Wisconsin two weeks ago.

"I think we are going to make our delegates fairly easily and I think we are going to be fine. I think the convention is going to be unity. I hope it is going to be unity because the Republican Party needs unity. It really needs unity," Trump told reporters in the New York City borough of Staten Island.

Cruz picking off delegates

Cruz hopes to pick up a few delegates Tuesday in New York, but he may have to wait until the Indiana primary May 3 for his next best shot at slowing down the billionaire.

Republican presidential candidate Senator Ted Cruz
FILE - Republican presidential candidate Senator Ted Cruz speaks during a campaign event in Scotia, New York, April 7, 2016.

Cruz continues to focus on his main argument that if the Republicans nominate Trump in Cleveland, it would virtually assure that Clinton will become the next president.

"Nationwide, about 70 percent of Republicans recognize that if Donald Trump is the nominee, Hillary Clinton wins. Hillary beats Donald Trump by double-digits. If I am the nominee, we beat Hillary," Cruz told reporters during a recent campaign stop in Buffalo.

Ohio Governor John Kasich also makes the argument that he would be a stronger candidate against Clinton than either Trump or Cruz. And during a recent Republican gala in Manhattan, Kasich sought to draw a contrast with his rivals by touting a more optimistic message and approach.

Republican presidential candidate, Ohio Gov. John
FILE - Republican presidential candidate, Ohio Gov. John Kasich speaks during a campaign stop at Hofstra University in Hempstead, New York, April 4, 2016.

Kasich warned against making either Trump or Cruz the nominee "because we risk losing everything from the White House to the courthouse to the State House if we don't advance a positive, uplifting, unifying message to this country. That is what we need to do!"

Key moment in Democratic race

In the Democratic race in New York, Clinton also is looking for a clear victory over persistent challenger Bernie Sanders. Sanders has pulled off an impressive string of recent victories, many of them in smaller caucus states, and Clinton needs a New York win to reassert her status as the clear front-runner.

Clinton was taking no chances at a rally in Staten Island.

"If you will go out and vote for me on Tuesday, I will fight for you during this campaign and I will fight for you every single day in the White House. Thank you and God bless you, Staten Island!" she said.

Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton,
Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, center, is joined on stage by former Arizona Rep. Gabby Giffords, second from right, Leticia James, left, and New York City first lady Chirlane McCray, second from left, and others during a Women for Hill

Sanders took time off Friday from the campaign trail to speak at a Vatican conference on economic inequality, a core theme of his campaign. He also met privately with Pope Francis.

Polls show Sanders has an uphill climb in New York, however, even though he may be closing the gap a bit in the latest surveys. Sanders asserted that he would be the stronger Democratic candidate in the general election against whomever the Republicans nominate.

"I believe from the bottom of my heart that I am the stronger candidate running against a Republican, and I think more and more Democrats understand that as well," Sanders said.

Sanders hanging tough

Sanders also dismissed analysis from pundits and Clinton supporters that he faces a must-win battle in New York.

Democratic presidential candidate, Sen. Bernie San
FILE - Democratic presidential candidate, Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., greets a CWA worker at a Verizon workers picket line in the Brooklyn borough of New York, April 13, 2016..

"No one state is a must-win. From Iowa on I have heard how every state is supposed to be a must-win. Obviously, New York State has a lot of delegates. It is very important, and we want to do as well as we possibly can," he said.

But Sanders clearly has his eye on later primaries, including the June 7 showdown in California.

On VOA's "Issues in the News" program, CBS radio analyst Michael Williams predicted that Sanders and his appeal will remain a force in the Democratic race for the foreseeable future.

"He is honest in the extreme. He is oddly appealing with his disheveled, frumpy look," Williams said. "Will he win? No. But has he affected this race and the course of the Democratic Party for the long term? Certainly, he has."

Sanders also is urging some of the Democratic superdelegates who already have declared for Clinton to switch their votes and back him instead. So far, though, there hasn't been much response.

In short, New York victories for Trump and Clinton would be a big step toward clinching the party nominations, but the outcome of the primary likely will not be definitive. Trump has work to do to remove the prospect of a contested convention in Cleveland, where he could lose.

And even with a win in New York, Clinton likely faces a long road of holding off Sanders — right up through the Democratic convention in late July in Philadelphia.