On Primary Day in New York, Trump Eyes a Delegate Sweep, While Clinton Aims to Extinguish ‘the Bern’

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PHILADELPHIA, PA - APRIL 6: Democratic presidential candidate H
Ready for victory.Photo: Ricky Carioti/2016 The Washington Post

Donald Trump finished his Empire State campaign rallying supporters with Bills coach Rex Ryan in Buffalo, while Hillary Clinton schmoozed with Stephen Colbert in Manhattan, and Bernie Sanders completed his frenzied tour of all five boroughs. Then, as New Yorkers head to the polls today, Trump will dream of a delegate sweep, while Clinton makes the the final arrangements for the Sanders campaign’s funeral, and Bernie backers pray for another Michigan miracle.

The most recent polls show each party’s front-runner in a commanding position. A CBS News/YouGov poll puts Trump over Ohio governor John Kasich by 33 points, while an Emerson University poll puts him up by 34; in both surveys, the Donald commands over 50 percent. FiveThirtyEight puts the odds of a Trump victory tomorrow at greater than 99 percent. But that doesn’t mean the mogul won’t be wringing his tiny hands while waiting to hear the returns: The New York GOP’s complex delegate-allocation rules may allow the Donald’s rivals to diminish the significance of his win.

Here’s the trouble for Trump: Each of New York’s 27 congressional districts has three delegates to award. If the Donald clears 50 percent in a district, he lays claim to all three — but if he comes in anywhere below that threshold, even at 49 percent, he collects two delegates, and the runner-up takes one. According to a Politico poll released last week, Trump runs up big margins in Long Island, Brooklyn, Queens, and Staten Island, but he’s stuck around 40 percent in many districts upstate. And then there are districts like Charlie Rangel’s up in Harlem, where the race will be decided by, approximately, two Republican families. The Politico poll suggests that Cruz and Kasich could scoop up as many as 24 of the state’s 95 delegates. With Trump’s path to a pre-convention majority already claustrophobically narrow, the front-runner has to hope that late-deciders upstate give him a few more district-level landslides.

On the Democratic side, polls from over the weekend show the race tightening, but it will likely be too little, too late for the political revolution. A CBS News/YouGov poll from over the weekend puts Sanders within ten points, matching his best showing from a top-tier firm in the state. An Emerson University poll released Monday shows him trailing by 15 — still up three points from last week and 33 points from last month, when Emerson gave Clinton a 48-point lead over the Vermont senator. Nonetheless, a RealClearPolitics average of all polls puts Clinton up by nearly 13, and FiveThirtyEight puts the odds of a Clinton victory in the Empire State at 99 percent.

If you’re a Sandernista looking to keep your spirits up, there are a couple of things you can tell yourself. One, a Gravis poll from over the weekend shows Sanders within six points (though it was taken before Thursday’s debate, and Gravis doesn’t have the best reputation). Two, the night before Bernie won Michigan, RCP’s average had Clinton up by more than 20 points, and Nate Silver’s number crunchers gave her a 99 percent chance of victory. And, as usual, there’s no shortage of grassroots energy on the democratic socialist’s side. Over the weekend, nearly 30,000 people came to hear the senator speak in Prospect Park.

Still, Sanders’s historic upset in Michigan was made possible by the state’s open-primary system, which allowed impulsive younger voters to flock to the polls in large numbers. By contrast, New York has one of the most restrictive primaries in the country. If you didn’t register with your party last October, you won’t be able to cast a ballot this Tuesday — a fact Trump’s children know all too well. Plus, to keep from falling further off-pace in the delegate race, Sanders would have to win New York by multiple percentage points — in Michigan he barely eked by Clinton.