Here’s our unpopular opinion: Sweeping victories in the New York primary by presidential front-runners Hillary Rodham Clinton and Donald Trump did not change the 2016 race. They simply illustrated where the race has been headed all along.
That’s because both wins were predictable, and predicted. Trump has done well with northeastern GOP electorates and is New York City born and bred. Clinton does well in big states where Democratic voters mimic the party’s nationwide coalition. It’s been clear for weeks they were Empire State favorites. By Election Day eve both were 99 percent favorites at FiveThirtyEight’s primary forecast site.
Thus the results don’t add or subtract momentum from anyone as much as show long-existing strengths and weaknesses and focus our attention on two important, obvious conclusions about the nomination endgames.
The first is that it is going to be very difficult to take the nomination away from Donald Trump even if he does not reach the 1,237 delegate victory threshold. Following Trump’s Wisconsin primary loss, the #NeverTrump crowd was optimistic that a contested convention would turn to someone else. That’s still possible but if it happens, it will happen after Trump has won a series of big states, including New York, and likely Pennsylvania and New Jersey.
The essential vector of the GOP race hasn’t changed. Trump’s support isn’t softening; it’s about where it’s been all along. The Donald will reach the convention with more than 1,000 delegates, plus a state-winning streak. As Politico’s Eli Stokol points out today, Trump may reach a magic number that’s short of 1,237 but close enough to make it impossible to deny him the crown. What’s that number, exactly? Nobody knows.
The second point is that it would now take a revolution unprecedented in the history of American politics for Bernie Sanders to win. For all practical purposes the Democratic contest is over.
Yes, Sanders and Hillary Clinton are now virtually tied in national polls. The problem for Bernie is that much of the nation has already voted, and he lost. As we’ve said over and over, his delegate deficit of 200+ doesn’t seem big, but it’s really hard to make up. Democratic rules allocate delegates proportionately, meaning that he needs big wins in big places to close the gap. He’s not getting them.
The vector of the Democratic race hasn’t changed either. Unless something major occurs to alter the demographics of support for Clinton and Trump, the former Secretary of State and the billionaire developer/TV-star will face off in the fall.