Clinton's New York Win Deals Blow to Sanders

Clinton's New York Win Deals Blow to Sanders
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New York Democratic primary voters rewarded Hillary Clinton Tuesday, helping the state’s former senator erect a barrier against Bernie Sanders’ nearly month-long streak of caucus and primary victories.

Her nearly 16-point victory provided a significant boost in delegates: With more than 98 percent of the vote counted, Clinton could claim 169 to 104 for Sanders. By the end of April, he is likely to find it mathematically impossible to argue he can capture the nomination with delegates earned and wooed by June, and his critics will amp up accusations that Sanders is dividing the Democratic Party at exactly the moment Democrats need to unite to take advantage of disarray in the Republican race.

Clinton acknowledged her lead in her post-election remarks Tuesday night, saying “The race for the Democratic nomination is in the home stretch and victory is in sight.”

She also offered an olive branch to Sanders and his supporters.

“To all the people who support Sen. Sanders, I believe there is much more that unites us than divides us.”

When the race was called Tuesday night, Clinton led Sanders by double digits, a margin large enough to spell relief inside her Brooklyn-based campaign headquarters in the wake of the front-runner’s defeats in Wisconsin and Wyoming earlier this month. At the start of April, Clinton held nearly a 30-point lead over the Vermont senator in New York, according to the RealClearPolitics polling average, but Brooklyn-born Sanders relentlessly pressed voters this month to re-examine his opponent’s judgment and her alliances with Wall Street financial institutions and millionaire donors.

Donald Trump, anticipating his own GOP primary triumph in New York Tuesday, joined Sanders in criticizing Clinton this week, dubbing the VIP guest at his 2005 wedding “crooked Hillary.” Clinton’s favorability ratings have been sinking (as have Trump’s) with every passing day of the nomination fight.

Nonetheless, 64 percent of New York voters said they believe Clinton has a better chance to defeat Trump, if he’s the Republican nominee, according to exit polling reported by CNN. Thirty-three percent disagreed, saying Sanders is the better choice to trounce Trump.

Clinton waged a battle in the Empire State using all the weapons in her arsenal. She convened campaign events throughout her adopted home state, reminding New Yorkers of her record as their senator from 2001-2009. She dissected progressive policy prescriptions and argued for skillful collaboration with Congress to enact laws to benefit the middle class, if she is elected president. And she courted New York’s famously fickle news media in a style she honed more than 15 years ago while first running for elective office.

Clinton turned to husband Bill and daughter Chelsea, and almost the entire Democratic elected power base in New York as surrogate campaigners. She appealed to women voters, her most loyal supporters, and embraced African-American Democrats by pledging to carry on President Obama’s agenda in 2017 and beyond.

And in campaign television ads, during an acrimonious debate with Sanders in Brooklyn last week, and as part of her stump speeches, Clinton cast her democratic socialist opponent as a longtime lawmaker who remains untethered from political realities as well as some of the nitty-gritty details of the core policies he champions.

Sanders has struggled this year to turn his youthful fan base and his online fund-raising prowess into votes to overtake his rival, who has been able to appeal to blacks and Latinos, as well as progressive women, especially those older than 45.

Clinton since February has maintained her lead, hoping to secure the necessary 2,383 delegates as early as possible, in order to turn her attention to castigating Trump and Sen. Ted Cruz, who may contest the GOP nomination in July.

In New York’s primary, in which registered independent and GOP voters could not cross over to vote for either Democrat, exit polls showed a staggering difference in age groups: Voters 45 and older overwhelming went to Clinton while younger voters flocked to Sanders, according to results posted by CNN.

Tad Devine, Sanders’ senior campaign strategist, acknowledged to CNN that the candidate did not expect to win. Sanders eschewed a New York event in favor of a rally in State College, Pa., indicating his decision to turn his attention to the April 26 contests.

In a statement issued late Tuesday, Sanders said: "We didn’t get the victory we had hoped for this evening, but what’s important is that it looks like we’re going to win a lot more delegates in New York than any state that voted or caucused before tonight. … We remain in a position to take the pledged delegate lead when almost 700 delegates are up for grabs on June 7.”‎

In addition to blue-collar Pennsylvania, the Democratic rivals compete next in primaries in Connecticut; Maryland; Delaware; and Rhode Island. In all, 384 total delegates are at stake. Without dramatic, decisive victories next week, Sanders will “run out of real estate,” according to Clinton campaign strategists, and the nomination will slip his grasp, based on the earned-delegate count and the super delegate pledges to support Clinton.

After April 26, “We’ll have a lead in the popular vote and a lead in the pledged delegates that will be insurmountable for him,” John Podesta, chairman of the Clinton campaign, told CNN early in the evening. The former secretary of state expects Sanders to compete through June and will not call for Sanders to bow out, Podesta added.

Alexis Simendinger covers the White House for RealClearPolitics. She can be reached at asimendinger@realclearpolitics.com.  Follow her on Twitter @ASimendinger.

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