Victory in sight, says Clinton

US Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton reacting to cheers at her New York presidential primary night rally in Manhattan on April 19.
US Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton reacting to cheers at her New York presidential primary night rally in Manhattan on April 19.PHOTO: REUTERS

Democratic front runner Hillary Clinton's home state advantage proved too strong for Mr Bernie Sanders to overcome as she won the New York primary on Tuesday, strengthening her grip on the party's nomination and making it nearly impossible for her rival to catch up.

"Today, you've proved once again, there is no place like home," said Mrs Clinton to supporters in Manhattan. "The race for the Democratic nomination is in the home stretch and victory is in sight."

Assistant professor of political science Jacob Neiheisel of the University at Buffalo said that while many factors are at play, "having a home state advantage certainly helped Clinton", as did her prior experience as the US senator for the state.

Mrs Cinton won 57.9 per cent of the vote - 139 of the 291 delegates at stake - while Mr Sanders got 42.1 per cent.

"This is a turning point in her campaign," added Dr Neiheisel. "Her victory will certainly change the media narrative about Bernie Sanders' momentum in the contest."

The Vermont senator had won seven of the last eight contests but his loss in New York decidedly narrows his path to the nomination.

Candidates swing through the states during the primary election, picking up delegates who will vote for the party's nominee at the national convention in July. With 1,948 delegates compared with Mr Sanders' 1,238, Mrs Clinton is less than 500 delegates shy of hitting the required 2,383.

"The No. 1 contributor to Sanders' loss was the closed nature of New York's primary system," said Dr Neiheisel. This means many independents - who form a large part of Mr Sanders' base - were unable to vote for him, as they were not registered Democratic voters.

Tensions rose between the Sanders and Clinton campaigns in the days leading up to Tuesday's vote as Mr Sanders accused Mrs Clinton of violating campaign finance laws, while Mrs Clinton's campaign pushed back, saying the attacks were irresponsible and baseless.

Taking a jab at Mr Sanders during her speech, Mrs Clinton said: "Under the bright lights of New York, we have seen it is not enough to diagnose problems, we have to explain how we actually solve problems."

And pivoting to the general election, she warned that "Donald Trump and Ted Cruz are pushing a vision for America that is divisive and frankly dangerous", referring to their anti-immigrant and anti-Muslim rhetoric.

As the primary race continues, Mr Sanders now "has to win upcoming contests by even larger margins - something that doesn't look like it is going to happen, even as he has pulled quite close to Clinton in the national poll", said Dr Neiheisel.

In a survey by NBC News and The Wall Street Journal released on Monday, Mrs Clinton has 50 per cent of national support compared with Mr Sanders' 48 per cent.

This is a much slimmer lead than the 9 percentage points she had over Mr Sanders a month ago in the same poll.

However, in delegate-rich states such as Maryland and Pennsylvania, which will vote next Tuesday, Mrs Clinton maintains solid leads.

Mr Sanders, who was already in Pennsylvania on Tuesday, showed no signs of backing down, holding a rally at Penn State University, energising young voters there.

Yet, experts are less upbeat about his chances. "Sanders is gaining on Clinton... but it is just too little, too late," said Dr Neiheisel.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 21, 2016, with the headline 'Victory in sight, says Clinton'. Print Edition | Subscribe