US presidential front-runners look for a lift in New York primaries

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New York, April 20 (IANS) US presidential front-runners Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump are looking for a lift in the New York primaries on Tuesday to propel them into the general election in November as they both are desperate to score victories in a state where they have deep roots.

Preference polls showed Democrat Clinton and Republican Trump ahead by double-digit margins into the crucial New York primaries. With the Republican and Democratic races becoming extended delegate battles in an already wild campaign season, New York becomes a high-stakes prize they can’t afford to lose.

On the Democratic side, it is a pivotal contest for both presidential hopefuls in New York, with 291 delegates up for grabs, after Bernie Sanders, a US senator from Vermont, won seven out of the last eight state-level Democratic nominating contests.

Sanders is chipping away at Clinton’s big lead in the number of delegates needed to secure the party’s nomination, according to Xinhua.

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Clinton currently holds a more than 200 lead in pledged delegates which, combined with her popularity among superdelegates, represents a wide gap almost impossible for Sanders to close.

For Clinton, a resounding victory in the face-saving contest would plug up Sanders’ momentum and bruise his claim that he can still catch up to her and have a real path to party nomination.

Both Democrats are campaigning hard in a state they both have ties, reaching out to New Yorkers face to face with handshakes on sidewalks and holding rallies around the fourth-most populous US state till the last moment before the contest.

On the Republican side, Trump, who is a Queens native and built his fortune in New York’s real estate market, also needs a big victory in New York to bring him closer to the nomination at the party July’s convention in Cleveland.

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Trump now holds a lead of 200 delegates over his closest rival, Texas senator Ted Cruz, in the now three-man Republican race. A candidate needs to grasp 1,237 delegates to become the party nominee who faces Clinton or Sanders.

Cruz, however, has cut into Trump’s delegates lead by notching his fourth win in a row in the Colorado state Republican convention against the brash New York billionaire.

The Texas senator said the recent winning streak marks “a turning point” in his campaign trail.

He has been campaigning feverishly to court delegates who would be free to switch loyalties if the convention’s first round of balloting doesn’t determine a clear nominee.

John Kasich, the Ohio governor who has won only his home state and now trails behind Trump about 600 delegates, also struggles to compete in the behind-the-scenes battle for delegates.

Kasich also trails Trump by slightly more than 30 percentage points in New York.

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The prospect of a contested convention, a extremely rare event in recent US politics, looms much larger in the Republican race. If no candidate reaches that 1,237 threshold by the close of the last primary on June 7, then the convention will almost certainly be contested.

The recent string of losses in four states including highly competitive Wisconsin prompted Trump to announce a major staff shake amid Cruz’s spirited campaign to force a contested convention.

Trump’s national field director Stuart Jolly tendered his resignation amid shakeup on Monday afternoon.

The face-off between the two candidates in New York state’s primary with 95 delegates at stake marks the start of the two candidates’ final push to secure the party’s nomination.

After casting his ballot on Tuesday morning at a synagogue near Trump Tower in midtown Manhattan, Trump said: “I think we’ll do really well. It feels good.”

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