Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump gain ground in presidential election primaries in New York

Home ground an advantage for both

 

Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump have decisively won their respective primaries in New York, strengthening their prospects of becoming presidential candidates for the Democrats and Republicans. Their leadership positions are not yet copper-fastened, with a string of important contests still to come in northern states before the Californian primary in June. But it is increasingly difficult to doubt they will face one another in November’s real contest. And the New York results contain several indications of what issues drive their supporters, as well as clues about the likely outcome of such a race.

New York is home ground for both candidates, a factor which they turned to advantage. Trump got more than 50 per cent of the votes, the first time he has done this in 35 primaries. His appeal to discontented white middle-class Republican voters was confirmed throughout the state, supplemented this time by wider support from women and the college-educated. It is difficult to see how his remaining opponents Ted Cruz and John Kasich can catch up with him. But Trump is not there yet and has not stopped fulminating against the voting rules which might still be used to upset his candidacy at the Republican convention. Nor has he relaxed the nativist populist rhetoric used to such effect throughout his campaign, although commentators discern a more careful tone and a stronger support team as he consolidates his position.

For Hillary Clinton this was a sweet victory after seven primaries lost to Bernie Sanders. Exit polls show she got solid majorities among women, black and Latino voters while maintaining the coalition between them and white socio-economic groups she wants to mobilise in November and which has given Barack Obama two successive terms in the White House. The remaining primaries could yet allow Sanders catch up with her lead in convention delegates, but it is looking more and more unlikely. Her centrist and triangulating politics and detailed policy prescriptions were very much on show here. For all that New York is distinctive from elsewhere in the US, its urban scale and demographics also make it more representative of national voting.

That gives Clinton good reason to hope she can become president if confirmed as the Democratic candidate in July. The political artificiality of the separated party primary systems should not overshadow the real contest in which polling puts her consistently ahead of Trump. That is what scares the Republican establishment who want to exclude him, however difficult it is to do it with procedural rules. Should that not prove possible Trump has a much longer road to travel towards a centrist platform than Clinton. But her programme could hardly ignore the left-wing sentiment so effectively mobilised by Sanders in his exciting campaign.

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