Sanders plays expectations game in NY

Sanders plays expectations game in NY
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NEW YORK — Bernie SandersBernie SandersDemocratic strategist: 'Medicare for All' exposes generational gap within party Yang expands campaign with senior hires for digital operations Biden: All-white debate not representative of party, but 'you can't dictate' nominee MORE will score a moral victory in New York’s Democratic primary if he can limit Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonYang expands campaign with senior hires for digital operations Top GOP legislator in California leaves party GOP senators request interview with former DNC contractor to probe possible Ukraine ties MORE’s winning margin to single digits, party insiders say. 

But they also caution that such a result would not be enough to change the overall shape of the race, in which Clinton holds a solid lead. 

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To have any real shot at wresting the nomination away, the experts say, Sanders would need to produce a seismic shock on Tuesday, defeating Clinton in the state she represented in the Senate for eight years.

The odds of such an outcome look slight, given that most polls show the former secretary of State leading by more than 10 points. The RealClearPolitics polling average has Clinton ahead by 13.8 points in the Empire State.

“If he loses but comes close in New York, he can claim a moral victory,” said Democratic strategist Brad Bannon. “The bad news is moral victories don’t do him any good. Winning delegates is what he needs.”

At present, Clinton leads Sanders by around 250 pledged delegates — that is, delegates whose support is won via primary elections and caucuses. But the front-runner has a far more commanding lead among the elected officials and party stalwarts who serve as super-delegates. She leads Sanders 469 to 31 by that metric, according to The Associated Press’s delegate tracker.

Sanders can still hold out hope. For a start, he is playing on home turf, having grown up in Brooklyn’s Flatbush neighborhood. Last Wednesday, he drew a crowd estimated at 27,000 to Washington Square Park in Manhattan. On the same day, he received the endorsement of the New York transit workers union, which represents more than 40,000 members.

Sanders’s boosters also note that he has made progress in cutting into Clinton’s polling lead, approximately halving her lead in the RCP average since the start of this month. They also cite his shock victory in the Michigan primary last month as evidence that he can outperform poll projections.

Half the voters in the 2008 Democratic primary were residents of New York City, according to exit polls. Any Sanders victory would be built on strong turnout in the most liberal precincts of Manhattan, such as the Upper West Side, and Brooklyn. Sanders would also need high levels of engagement in college towns around the state. Experts mention places such as Binghamton, New Paltz and Oswego, home to institutions within the State University of New York (SUNY) system.

There is no mistaking the passion of Sanders’s supporters. If the number of people wearing campaign merchandise in lower Manhattan this weekend was a measure of likely electoral success, the Vermont senator would be on course for a landslide. A rally set for Prospect Park, Brooklyn, on Sunday afternoon is expected to draw another huge crowd. 

But the primary landscape is a lot more complicated than that. Observers steeped in New York politics make clear that Sanders’s campaign will need to be firing on all cylinders if he even wants to run Clinton close.

“He can get young people and liberal whites, but the question is, how many?” said Hank Sheinkopf, a New York Democratic strategist who has worked for Clinton in the past but is not affiliated with her campaign this year. Asked about the idea of a huge turnout among students and other young people, he added with obvious skepticism: “It’s possible, but they have got to turn out — in April.”

The Clinton campaign is also leaving little to chance. On Sunday, high-profile surrogates including Democratic members of Congress Charles Rangel, Hakeem Jeffries, Yvette Clarke, Gregory Meeks and Joseph Crowley were to host get-out-the-vote events for her across New York City’s five boroughs. Clinton herself is set to appear at an organizing event in Staten Island on Sunday evening.

Sheinkopf is among those who offered a comparatively low bar by which to judge Sanders’s success in the primary, however.

“Get within ten [points.] Ten or better. Simple as that,” he said. “If it’s anything below double digits, Bernie will have surprised her.”

Another veteran New York Democratic strategist, George Arzt, offered a similar assessment. If Sanders keeps Clinton’s margin of victory under 10 points, he said, that would be “not a bad showing — this is Hillary’s adopted state. And he could claim victory if he came within 5 points or 6 points. Everyone would say that was a great showing.”

Although the Democratic primary leans heavily in Clinton’s favor, it is a more competitive contest than the one taking place on the GOP side. Donald TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump says he will 'temporarily hold off' on declaring Mexican drug cartels as terror organization House Judiciary Committee formally receives impeachment report Artist behind gold toilet offered to Trump sells banana duct-taped to a wall for 0,000 MORE is set for a blowout win in his home state. His lead in the RCP average in New York is 31.3 points.

The real challenge for Trump is to maximize his haul of delegates by sweeping not just the state as a whole but also as many of its 27 congressional districts as possible. Trump has several rallies scheduled outside New York City in the campaign’s closing days. He will be in Poughkeepsie on Sunday afternoon and Buffalo on Monday evening.

Trump’s main rival, Sen. Ted CruzRafael (Ted) Edward CruzTrade deal talks expand as Congress debates tech legal shield Sanders meets with MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred Cruz knocks Chick-fil-A over past donation: It has 'lost its way' MORE (Texas), can only hope to limit the number of delegates going to the business mogul. One time-effective approach is to focus on districts that have few Republican voters. Winning a district where Republicans are in a tiny minority yields as many delegates as a GOP stronghold.

“People made fun of Ted Cruz going to the South Bronx,” GOP strategist Ford O’Connell said with a laugh, referring to a campaign stop the Texan made earlier this month. “They don’t understand that there are only about five Republican voters there. So if you win three, you get the delegates!”