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New York Primary Preview: Clinton, Trump Look To Home State To Help Put Races Away

Hillary Clinton waves to a crowd at a Women for Hillary event at the New York Hilton hotel Monday in Midtown Manhattan.

The results from Tuesday night's New York primary could be crucial in determining whether either (or both) of the presidential nominating contests is clinched anytime soon.

The Empire State is a delegate-rich prize for both parties — 95 delegates are up for grabs in the GOP race, while 247 pledged delegates will be decided on the Democratic side. Donald Trump has a chance to sweep all, or close to all, of the delegates because of how they will be allocated on the GOP side. Democrats allocate proportionally, and that makes it harder for Bernie Sanders, who needs to win with 57 percent, or he loses ground in the pledged-delegate race.

National front-runners Trump and Hillary Clinton are the favorites in New York, the state they both call home. But their rivals will try to turn pockets of support across the state into at least some delegate victories.

Here's where and what to watch in both primaries. Polls close at 9 p.m. ET.

Cruz, Kasich try to stop a Trump sweep

Virtually every recent poll has shown the New York real-estate magnate topping 50 percent in his home state's GOP primary, which would give him a sweep of the 11 at-large delegates plus the three delegates bound to the statewide winner.

But it's the 81 delegates awarded proportionally based on congressional districts — three in each — that could get interesting. Texas Sen. Ted Cruz and Ohio Gov. John Kasich are each trying to find pockets of support where they can scavenge some delegates. Their goal is to hold Trump below 50 percent in some districts and capture at least one of the available delegates in each district. Otherwise, Trump would sweep.

"While we're seeing in polling that Trump has a commanding lead, Kasich and Cruz have some support," said former Republican U.S. Rep. Tom Reynolds, who represented the Buffalo area for a decade. "But it's nowhere near Trump."

Reynolds, a former National Republican Congressional Committee chairman, pointed to his home of Western New York as a place where Trump has particular strength. Rep. Chris Collins, who now holds Reynolds' former House seat, was the first member of Congress to endorse the controversial Republican presidential hopeful at the end of February.

Since then, Trump has amassed the backing of many of the region's county GOP chairmen, plus his statewide campaign co-chairman Carl Paladino, the 2010 GOP nominee for governor, also hails from the western corner. Trump held his final election-eve rally in Buffalo, too, complete with an introduction from Buffalo Bills head coach Rex Ryan.

"The further West," Reynolds said, "the stronger it becomes in Trump country. In visits he's made to Albany, Syracuse, Rochester and now Buffalo, there's a swelling of attendance there in support, and the further West you go, the stronger it is."

Lee Miringoff, director of the Marist College Institute for Public Opinion, agreed that Western New York could well be one place where Trump cleans up with delegates, along with much of New York City itself.

"His big strengths are in the city and the suburbs," Miringoff said. "Trump does better Downstate than he does Upstate, but that doesn't mean he can't get to 50 [percent] in those districts, either."

Staten Island, the only Republican-leaning borough in the city, could be one of the biggest Trump strongholds, and is almost tailor-made for the outspoken politician, with its blue-collar, working-class electorate. (An Optimus Consulting survey showed Trump topping 70 percent there.)

Some places where Cruz might break through, Miringoff said, are actually in traditionally Democratic areas. He's campaigned in solidly blue places like The Bronx and Queens, and the small number of Republicans there wield outsize influence compared with districts outside the city, as NPR's Scott Detrow reported.

For Kasich, he could find some support in suburban areas just outside New York City and in Western New York. But Trump is still performing well in those places, too.

"The problem that Kasich finds himself in is that he's been doing better in the suburbs, but Trump is also very strong there," Miringoff said. "If Kasich were to pick up some delegates, it might be in the suburbs around Albany and Buffalo, but Trump is also very strong there. Kasich may get some significant votes, but it may not amount to much" if he can't hold Trump below 50 percent.

Reynolds also predicted that some Downstate metro counties could be good for Kasich, like Westchester, Orange and Rockland in the 17th and 18th districts. His recent endorsement from former New York Gov. George Pataki, who was briefly in the 2016 race, could help him in pockets statewide, too. Pataki is from Poughkeepsie, in Dutchess County, about an hour-and-a-half north of Manhattan.

Ultimately, though, if his rivals can't hold Trump below 50 percent in a significant number of congressional districts, Trump could get very close to taking all of the 95 delegates at stake.

If that's the case, Trump would then need somewhere around just 53 percent of the remaining delegates to hit the 1,237 he needs to clinch the GOP nomination. (That number rises to about 60 percent of remaining bound delegates available.) That could go a long way to erasing some of the incremental delegate wins Cruz has gotten by outmaneuvering Trump at recent state conventions in Colorado, North Dakota and Wyoming.

A turning point in the Democratic contest?

Final surveys in the state have given Clinton at least a double-digit advantage, which could climb up into the high teens. Clinton has never trailed in a poll in the New York primary. It's a closed primary, too, which gives Clinton a big advantage. She has done much better in this primary when only registered Democrats are voting.

The Democrats' bitter debate last week in Brooklyn underscored the tensions of just how much is at stake for both in New York. If Clinton can get a clear majority of the 247 delegates up for grabs, she'll expand her 244-pledged-delegate advantage over the Vermont senator. And with leads in states that will vote next week, such as Maryland, Pennsylvania and other Northeastern states, she could soon make it nearly mathematically impossible for Sanders to catch her.

Of course, if Sanders could pull off the win in New York, it could change the narrative — if not the math.

A big Clinton win in her adopted home state could be a big turning point in the race for her, but she'll still need to fight off Sanders in each congressional district if she wants a significant sweep. A total of 163 delegates will be awarded proportionally in each of the 27 congressional districts. Each candidate must simply reach at least a 15 percent threshold to qualify to get any delegates in each district.

The state has areas that play to each candidate's strengths. In New York City, Sanders is expected to do well in whiter, more upscale communities like Park Slope in Brooklyn and in younger, more gentrified areas. But Clinton is expected to perform best in the more diverse boroughs, such as in African-American pockets in Brooklyn, Harlem and The Bronx.

Outside of the Big Apple, things could be more competitive. The two run nearly even in Upstate New York, according to Miringoff, and outside of the city suburbs, north of Clinton's home in Westchester County, their support could be pretty evenly divided.

But if Clinton racks up a significant delegate advantage, Sanders' path to the 2,383 delegates he needs and to convince superdelegates to back him gets that much more complicated.

"Delegate-wise, I think [Clinton] wins the lion's share of the delegates," Miringoff predicted, "and that makes it hard for Sanders to make the argument he's on his way to closing."

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