The New York primary is in the books! And it was a good day for the front-runners on the Democratic and Republican sides as Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump cruised to wins. Below I picked some winners and some losers from the night that was.
The New York win also hands Trump momentum heading into next week’s primaries, where he looks well positioned to romp again. Unlike after past victories — think Florida — Trump won’t take the next few days off. He’s off to Indiana and Maryland on Wednesday. He’s got a new and improved political team in place. And judging by Trump’s MUCH more measured tone in victory — he called Ted Cruz “Senator Cruz” rather than “Lyin’ Ted,” for example — that new team of advisers has his ear.
* Hillary Clinton: The former secretary of state just keeps winning where she needs to keep winning. While a narrow loss in New York would have done next to nothing to puncture her clear delegate lead, it would have been a massive symbolic blow to her efforts to unite the party behind her. Knowing that, the candidate and the campaign focused relentlessly on the Empire State even while weathering a series of losses to Bernie Sanders in smaller, less delegate-rich states. Mission accomplished.
Clinton, like Trump, should have a very good next few weeks with polling in Pennsylvania and Maryland showing her comfortably ahead. That’s not to say that Sanders won’t continue to win states here and there. He will. But with every large state that comes off the map, Sanders’s math to overcome Clinton in pledged delegates becomes that much more difficult.
“Victory is in sight,” Clinton said in her victory speech Tuesday night. She’s right.
* Empire State Building: I see you, iconic structure of New York City! Staying relevant!
*John Kasich: The Ohio governor came in second! Okay, it was a distant second … but that’s not bad! And his showing in a Northeastern state gives him a bit of fodder to argue at the convention that Cruz simply can’t win in regions of the country — and with more moderate Republicans — that the party needs to expand the map in the fall. Mostly, though, Kasich is a winner in my book because he opened his mouth — and his stomach — to the full New York experience.
* Steve Kornacki: I love that sweater-wearing nerd (says a non-sweater-wearing nerd). Kornacki’s contribution on MSNBC’s primary night coverage — keeping track of the delegates, explaining the congressional district by congressional district math — is both informative and totally watchable. More Kornacki, please!
* Ted Cruz: The Texas senator is widely regarded as the establishment GOP pick. And yet, he finished third behind Trump and Kasich who, to date, has won a total of one state in the primary process. The calendar — or at least the rest of April — looks just as bad for Cruz as a series of Northeastern and mid-Atlantic states are set to vote.
Cruz remains the best organized candidate of the final three — not saying much given what we have seen of Trump’s “organization” to date — but momentum matters to him, too. He had clearly built a sense of momentum after delegate selection victories in Colorado and a series of other states over the past few weeks. New York will dampen that enthusiasm to stop Trump as the “Trump is ascendant” story line will (re)take over. Cruz needs to find ways to poke holes in that narrative before the Trump train [apologies for using that term] gets going too fast heading into the Indiana primary on May 3. It’s somewhat hard to see how Cruz does that, given how unfavorable the calendar looks for him right now.
* Bernie Sanders: Sanders didn’t win in New York. And he needed to if he wanted to have any realistic hope of catching Clinton in pledged delegates by the time the primary season ends on June 7. Let’s also not forget that Sanders raised expectations in advance of the New York primary, suggesting he could win because he would have ample time to campaign in the state. He didn’t come close.
Even more problematic for Sanders is that the next set of primaries won’t be much better for him. He will stay in the race. He will continue to win states. But the math is the math. And the math is damn close to determinative — against Sanders.
* Stop Trump movement: Make no mistake: Trump’s sweeping win in New York combined with his disciplined and respectful tone in victory should scare the hell out of the Republicans working to keep the nomination from him. The delegate math is still not easy for Trump. But his moves since losing the Wisconsin primary — layering over some original loyalists for more experienced campaign hands, dialing back his rhetoric on Twitter and the campaign trail, etc. — have all reflected a candidate who knows he was headed in the wrong direction and is bound and determined to fix those problems. If the Trump we saw over the past week in New York is the Trump we get between now and June 7, the effort to stop him may fall on hard times.