US Presidential Elections

Home run for front runners

In the Democratic camp, Mrs Hillary Cinton won 57.9 per cent of the vote in New York while rival Bernie Sanders clinched 42.1 per cent. A jubilant Mr Donald Trump emerges for his victory celebration to refrains of Frank Sinatra's New York, New York a
A jubilant Mr Donald Trump emerges for his victory celebration to refrains of Frank Sinatra's New York, New York at his gleaming headquarters on Fifth Avenue.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE
In the Democratic camp, Mrs Hillary Cinton won 57.9 per cent of the vote in New York while rival Bernie Sanders clinched 42.1 per cent. A jubilant Mr Donald Trump emerges for his victory celebration to refrains of Frank Sinatra's New York, New York a
In the Democratic camp, Mrs Hillary Cinton won 57.9 per cent of the vote in New York while rival Bernie Sanders clinched 42.1 per cent.PHOTO: REUTERS

Decisive win in New York cements Trump's lead in battle for Republican nomination

Billionaire Donald Trump recorded his most decisive victory of the primary election in his home state on Tuesday - cementing his position as front runner for the Republican Party's nomination, and effectively making it all but impossible for his rivals to usurp his lead without resorting to a messy contest at the nominating convention.

A clearly jubilant Mr Trump emerged for his victory celebration to refrains of Frank Sinatra's New York, New York at his gleaming headquarters on Fifth Avenue, barely an hour after the polls closed.

Such was the magnitude of his victory that most news outlets were confident enough to project the primary in his favour the moment polls closed at 9pm.

Then, standing in the same gold-trimmed lobby where he first launched his White House bid, Mr Trump declared the race over for the nomination.

"We don't have much of a race any more, based on what I'm seeing on television. Senator (Ted) Cruz is just about mathematically eliminated," he said of the Texas senator. "We are really, really rocking. We expect we are going to have an amazing number of weeks."

OUT FOR THE COUNT

We don't have much of a race any more, based on what I'm seeing on television. Senator Cruz is just about mathematically eliminated.

MR DONALD TRUMP, after winning in New York, his home state, yesterday.

And in what was a sign that Mr Trump may be starting to set his sights on the general election itself, he turned in his most subdued speech yet.

He stopped calling his opponent, Senator Cruz, "Lyin' Ted" and stayed largely on his core message of fixing America's economy.

By winning all but a handful of the 95 delegates on offer in New York, Mr Trump retains a chance of reaching the 1,237 delegates needed to secure the nomination outright.

With a total of 845 so far, he needs to win around 53 per cent of all remaining delegates.

Ohio Governor John Kasich, who finished a distant second in New York, had long stood no chance against Mr Trump in the primaries while Mr Cruz now needs an impossible 92 per cent of all remaining delegates to get to 1,237.

Both were thus quick to turn their attention to the party convention in July.

"Donald Trump's only chance is on the first ballot. After that, a number of his delegates will move to us on the second ballot, and Governor Kasich will ultimately prevail because he is the only candidate who can defeat Hillary Clinton," Mr Kasich's campaign said in a memo.

The primary elections bind delegates at the convention to certain candidates but only in the first ballot. If no one secures a majority at the first vote, then with each subsequent round of voting, more delegates become free to vote for whichever nominee they want.

It is this dynamic that Mr Kasich and Mr Cruz are depending on to wrest the nomination from Mr Trump at the convention.

Mr Cruz, who went into the New York contest on the back of a series of victories in smaller states, did not win any delegates and took less than 15 per cent of the vote, with New York voters clearly punishing him for disparaging "New York values" earlier in the campaign.

The defeat raised serious questions about his suitability as the choice of the #NeverTrump campaign. Mr Cruz's win in Wisconsin earlier this month was supposed to mark the turning of the tide against Mr Trump, with voters supposedly concluding that the real estate tycoon could not win in the general election.

But New York seemed to flip the script on electability. Brookings senior fellow Thomas Mann, who just released a new edition of his book on US politics, It's Even Worse Than It Looks, told The Straits Times that some New York voters clearly concluded that Mr Trump might fare better than Mr Cruz in the general election.

"He differs from the Republican Party policy on a number of issues and those offer the potential of some appeal among Democrats. Because he's so unconventional, he's terrifying to a lot of voters but there's a greater range of uncertainty with him in a general election than with Cruz," he said.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 21, 2016, with the headline 'Home run for front runners'. Print Edition | Subscribe