5 things to watch for in New York primary

5 things to watch for in New York primary

New York voters will cast ballots in critical Republican and Democratic primaries on Tuesday, wrapping up two weeks of heated campaigning in the state.

The primaries could be turning points in the presidential nominating contests for both parties.


GOP front-runner Donald TrumpDonald John TrumpWhite House sued over lack of sign language interpreters at coronavirus briefings Wife blames Trump, lack of masks for husband's coronavirus death in obit: 'May Karma find you all' Trump authorizes reduced funding for National Guard coronavirus response through 2020 MORE is poised for a big victory. But it’s not enough for Trump just to win; he’ll need a substantial margin of victory over rivals Ted CruzRafael (Ted) Edward CruzOn The Trail: The first signs of a post-Trump GOP Trump tests GOP loyalty with election tweet and stimulus strategy Republicans dismiss Trump proposal to delay election MORE and John Kasich on his home turf if he hopes to avoid a contested convention.

On the Democratic side, Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonTrump vows challenge to Nevada bill expanding mail-in voting Biden should pick the best person for the job — not the best woman Juan Williams: The Trump Show grows tired MORE needs a convincing victory in her home state if she hopes to put Bernie SandersBernie SandersCuba spells trouble for Bass's VP hopes Trump Spanish-language ad equates progressives, socialists Biden's tax plan may not add up MORE in her rearview mirror for good.

But Sanders refuses to go quietly. A victory Tuesday would be a game-changer for his campaign.

Here are five things to watch for as voters head to the polls on Tuesday:


The GOP delegates battle by congressional district

Trump is carrying a 30-point lead in the polls heading into election day, according to the RealClearPolitics average. He has had over 50 percent support in nearly every poll of the state taken in the last month.

If the GOP front-runner can finish above 50 percent statewide, he will automatically earn 14 of the state’s 95 delegates.

But Trump needs to maximize the number of delegates he can squeeze out of the state.

The remaining 81 delegates will be allocated based on the results in each of the state’s 27 congressional districts.

If any candidate finishes with more than 50 percent of the vote in a district, he’ll take all of the available delegates there.

Cruz and Kasich will be looking to keep Trump below the 50 percent mark and finish above 20 percent themselves, which would allow them to at least split the delegates at the congressional district level.

Every delegate matters for Trump at this point in the race.

Analysts are forecasting that Trump will finish somewhere close to the 1,237 delegates he needs to clinch the nomination before the Republican National Convention in July. 

If Trump falls short of that mark, even by a few delegates, his path to the nomination will become exponentially more difficult at a contested convention.

Taking only two-thirds of New York’s delegates would be a disappointment for him. A clean sweep of the state would be a huge victory.


Can Clinton put Sanders away?

Public polling indicates that Clinton is poised for a double-digit victory in New York .

Surveys in the state have consistently shown Clinton holding a lead of somewhere between 10 and 17 points in the state. Sanders has yet to climb to within single digits of Clinton in any poll of New York so far this cycle.

Clinton’s allies have said they hope to have put the nomination out of Sanders’s reach by the end of the month.

She begins Tuesday with a lead of over 240 pledged delegates. With 247 additional pledged delegates up for grabs, Clinton can put a significant amount of space between her and Sanders if she wins big.

But perhaps more important, a convincing victory would allow Clinton to shift her gaze to the general election.

The Democratic race has taken a nasty turn in recent weeks, and the sooner Clinton can move on, the better it will be for her.


Sanders’s quest for a game-changing victory

Sanders has so far won in places where he was expected to do well but lost badly in most of the states where Clinton has been the favorite.

A victory in a state where he’s the underdog would allow him to be seen as a serious challenger going forward.

While polls show Clinton maintaining a healthy lead in New York, Sanders has at least succeeded in making the contest appear close.

Sanders, who previously shied away from harsh criticism,  has ratcheted up his attacks against the front-runner recently.

And he has attracted tens of thousands of supporters to rallies around New York City while high-profile surrogates Spike Lee, Rosario Dawson and Harry Belafonte have been out in force on his behalf.

A victory on Tuesday could upend the dynamic of the race. A close finish, within a few points of Clinton, would legitimize his insistence on seeing the race through to its conclusion at the Democratic National Convention in July.

Still, Sanders’s reliance on young voters and independents could doom him.

The New York primary is closed to independents, and the deadline to register as a Democrat was in October. 


Will Cruz’s microtargeting pay off?

Cruz is on a mission to block Trump from reaching 1,237 delegates.

That means contesting every single delegate, even if he has to venture into unfriendly territory, something he has done on multiple occasions while campaigning in New York.

Earlier this month, Cruz campaigned in the liberal borough of the Bronx. The headlines he drew were largely negative. Hecklers greeted Cruz, who was put on the defensive for disparaging “New York values.”

And a speech Cruz gave at the New York City Republican gala last week drew an icy response from attendees there, further evidence that Northeast Republicans seem to have little interest in Cruz’s brand of conservatism.

But Cruz is playing a long game, hoping that his efforts in liberal precincts where Republicans rarely tread will help him cut into Trump’s delegates haul at the congressional district level. 

Even a few delegates could mean the difference between Trump winning on the first ballot at the convention and Cruz winning on the second or third.

Cruz identified pockets within the state where he believes his message could resonate. Cruz notably rolled matzo dough at a bakery in Brooklyn, reaching out to the city’s Orthodox Jewish community.

He will find out on Tuesday whether those efforts pay off.


Time for Kasich to prove his worth

Kasich has justified his presence in the race by saying he’ll do better than Cruz with moderate voters in Northeastern states where the electorate is more liberal.

New York will test that logic.

Most polls show Kasich running slightly ahead of Cruz in the state. 

He has been campaigning in the state for a full two weeks and has picked up endorsements from The New York Times and the New York Daily News.

Picking off a substantial number of delegates at the congressional district level would will go a long way to convincing skeptical Republicans that he’s not just sucking support from Cruz and that he’s able to contribute to the anti-Trump efforts.