NEW YORK - Billionaire businessman Donald Trump and former secretary of state Hillary Clinton consolidated their positions as the front runners in their parties with solid wins in the New York nominating race for the White House.
Both had entered the race on the back of a string of losses in the primaries and were looking to New York – which the two consider their home states - to halt the momentum of their rivals.
And while both had expected to win, the commanding nature of their victories still came as a welcome surprise. With about half the votes counted so far, Mr Trump and Mrs Clinton were leading their respective contests with around 60 per cent of the votes.
The good news came early for Mr Trump on Tuesday night (April 19), in a sign of just how decisive his margin of victory was. News outlets called the race for Mr Trump just moments after polls closed at 9pm US time.
Speaking at a celebration in the lobby of Trump Tower on New York’s Fifth Avenue, Mr Trump said he was thrilled to get the support of the people who knew him best.
And he stressed that his win should end the Republican nomination race as a contest, even though both Senator Ted Cruz and Governor John Kasich have pledged to take the fight all the way to the convention in July.
“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… We are really, really rocking. We expect we are going to have an amazing number of weeks,” he said.
It was a bad night for Mr Cruz, who looked likely to end up in third place in the state and finish without any delegates. He has focused his campaign on cultivating the most conservative evangelical voters, at one point even drawing flak for criticising liberal “New York values”. Unfortunately, few states remain where those voters form a sizeable block.
Mr Kasich, by taking second place, bolstered the strategic argument that he is best placed to try and deprive Mr Trump delegates in the more moderate states that are still to vote.
It is not yet clear how many delegates each candidate will pick up but Mr Trump looks set to take all but a handful of the 95 delegates on offer in New York. That gives him a narrow path to securing the Republican nomination before hitting the convention and he has to hope that there will be many more nights like this one in the weeks to come.
Most pundits now agree that the best chance of Mr Trump securing the Republican nomination is by winning a majority of delegates through the primaries. If he fails to do so, the wheeling and dealing by party insiders will likely swing the election away from Mr Trump at the convention.
Over at the Democratic party, the tight race Senator Bernie Sanders had predicted failed to materialise with news outlets declaring Mrs Clinton victory less than an hour after Mr Trump’s victory was called.
In the lead up to the vote, the battle between the two candidates had become increasingly heated and testy. Last week, they clashed in an ill-tempered debate in Brooklyn that included pleas from the moderator not to scream at each other.
The Clinton campaign had also sought to manage expectations, especially given the massive crowds at Mr Sanders’ rallies in the state. One rally in Manhattan drew an estimated 27,000 people.
In her victory speech in New York, Mrs Clinton said: “Today you proved once again that there’s no place like home… The race for the democratic nomination is in the home stretch and victory is in sight.”
Next week, a series of north-east states hold their primaries: Connecticut, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Rhode Island and Maryland.