Decision 2016: New York primary results

What a difference two weeks makes. Two weeks ago, Bernie Sanders and Ted Cruz upset their party’s frontrunners in Wisconsin. And while both Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton were expected to win New York, the margin of victory for each candidate has re-established them as their party’s front runners (although, to be precise, Hillary Clinton has not been in danger of losing her front runner status for some time). We will discuss each party’s primaries below:

Democratic contest

While Bernie Sanders carried the Wisconsin primary 57-43% two weeks ago, those results were reversed tonight: Hillary Clinton won New York 58-42%. Demographics clearly played a part: the Democratic primary electorate is dominated by New York City, which has substantial percentages both of blacks and Hispanics, and both were solidly behind Clinton. However, the suburban counties north and east of New York City contributed to her victory as well by providing crucial support. That New York City urban/suburban vote was only partially diluted by Sanders victories throughout much of Upstate New York.

It also didn’t hurt (from Hillary’s perspective) that only registered Democrats could vote in the Democratic primary, and a potential primary voter had to have been registered as a Democrat as of last October. This essentially prevented any late breaking enthusiasm for Sanders from Independent voters who might otherwise have selected a Democratic ballot.

New York was another state (like Wisconsin two weeks ago) where Democratic turnout was strong but not record-breaking: final Democratic turnout is estimated to be about 1.8 million voters, or about 70,000 less than the record breaking 2008 turnout.

Next week’s contests will help Clinton, but her victories are likely not to be as one-sided: they will all be held in Northeastern/New England states, and the Democratic electorates in those states are not as demographically diverse as New York’s.

Republican contest

That Donald Trump would carry his home state of New York was never in question: polls always showed him with unambiguous leads with over 50% of the vote. However, Trump’s overwhelming 60% victory almost certainly puts him in the driver’s seat: this was the highest vote percentage he has received in any state since the 49% of the vote he got in Massachusetts seven weeks ago. Furthermore, Ted Cruz still has not been able to establish himself as Trump’s main opponent: John Kasich earned that honor instead tonight by outpolling Cruz 25-15%.

Given that the anti Trump vote went to Kasich in New York, Ted Cruz is likely to have another unfavorable round of contests next week as well, as five northeastern/New England states (Connecticut, Delaware, Maryland, Pennsylvania, and Rhode Island) vote next Tuesday. And given that Kasich still has strength among more moderate Republican primary voters in the Northeast/New England, Ted Cruz won’t be in a position to consolidate the anti-Trump vote until Indiana’s May 3 primary at the earliest.

And while Donald Trump showed unambiguous strength tonight (he carried every county except, ironically, his home county of Manhattan), he still needs to win big in next week’s primaries if he wants to go into Indiana looking like a clear front runner. However, it helps (for now) that there is no clear “anti Trump” candidate with consistent national strength.

Throughout primary season, GOP turnout has been at record levels, and tonight’s contest was no exception: Republican turnout will be estimated to be about 840,000, which is 25% higher than it was in 2008.

Looking ahead

In the short term (particularly given Trump’s overwhelming win in New York), Donald Trump will likely look like a strong front runner going into the Indiana contest on May 3. However, his fortunes are more uncertain in the handful of contests to be held between May 3 and the final contests on June 7: West Virginia and Nebraska vote on May 10, and Oregon votes on May 17. Those states are in terrain more favorable towards Ted Cruz, although continued Kasich strength in next week’s contests might challenge that assumption. The culmination of the nomination contest will be on June 7, with California as the prize.

For the Democrats, Hillary just needs to avoid any more embarrassing defeats and/or close contests, although it looks like the May contests are likely to favor Sanders.