Hundreds packed into the Arthur Avenue Market in the Belmont section of the Bronx last Thursday, seeking to meet Republican presidential longshot John R. Kasich, the sitting Governor of Ohio.
“Here in New York we’re now running in second,” Kasich told the press at the event. “We’re going to pick up delegates in Pennsylvania and all over the Northeast, and down in Maryland, and we’re going to go to a convention.”
Kasich is just one of the five remaining major presidential candidates to be campaigning in New York ahead of the state’s presidential primary on April 19, which could prove to be a crucial pivot point in both primary races. Both the frontrunners in each contest reside here – and both are looking to seal the deal on their nominations.
In the past week, all five candidates have come to the state to campaign – four of them venturing here, into the Bronx, to hunt for votes. Conservative firebrand Senator Ted Cruz of Texas, former secretary of state and Democratic frontrunner Hillary Rodham Clinton, and her opponent, Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont have all visited the Bronx, in addition to Kasich.
The lone exception is Republican frontrunner Donald J. Trump – a New York native – who is confident he can win here, and has only held two New York events: one in Bethpage, Long Island, and another in Rochester.
Kasich and Cruz are looking to deny Trump delegates wherever they can. Delegates in New York’s Republican primary are split by congressional district, with each district awarding three.
Cruz is targeting more conservative parts of the state, including areas Upstate, and parts of Brooklyn with high populations of conservative Jews. Last Thursday, he visited a matzo bakery in Brighton Beach.
But Cruz is having trouble gaining traction in the city after he critiqued Trump in a February debate for his “New York values.”
On Wednesday, he made a campaign appearance in Eastchester, the Bronx that was attended by fewer than 100 supporters. The event also drew rowdy protestors, who objected to Cruz’s hardline stand on illegal immigration.
Meanwhile, Kasich is campaigning heavily Upstate and in suburbs on Long Island and in Westchester, and has spent time in heavily Democratic majority-minority districts in the city – where only a handful of Republican voters will decide the fate of the district’s three delegates.
Clinton is looking to recover momentum after a bruising string of losses to Sanders. Sanders has won 7 of the last 8 contests, including a particularly important 13-percentage-point in Wisconsin last Tuesday. Since March 22, Sanders has closed Clinton’s delegate lead by more than 60 pledged delegates.
Last week, Clinton held events in Purchase, Brooklyn and Manhattan. She also made an appearance in the Bronx – where she rode with commuters on the No. 4 subway line from Yankee Stadium, trying to play up her New York roots. But many New Yorkers reject the notion of Mrs. Clinton – who was born in Illinois, and has since lived in Massachusetts, Connecticut, Washington, D.C., and Arkansas – as a New Yorker.
“The closest she’s ever been to being a New Yorker is going to Donald Trump’s wedding,” sophomore Jamie Paton said. “She’s not a New Yorker.”
Paton, a registered Democrat from New York, has not been convinced by either candidate yet, and she isn’t sure if she likes either one.
“I don’t know if I’m voting in the primary at this point,” Paton said. “I really like Bernie’s ideas […] but I want more in-depth about it.”
Paton plans to attend a Sanders event before the primary, and hopes to make up her mind by then.
Sanders is putting up a massive effort in New York. He launched his campaign two weeks ago with a rally at St. Mary’s Park in the South Bronx, drawing nearly 20,000 supporters, including sophomore Samantha Roth, a registered Democrat, who was in the overflow crowd at the event.
“The overflow crowd had to go to a projector screen on the other side of the park, and he wound up coming to our side first just to speak because he wanted us to have the same experience as everyone else,” Roth said. Roth supports Sanders because of his progressive policies and promotion of equality for marginalized groups.
Since the Bronx event, Sanders has been making the rounds on talk shows and rallying supporters in across the city.
For the Democratic primary, every vote from every part of the state counts equally since the delegates are awarded proportionally to the statewide vote. Delegates are, of course, the only things that really matter – and that’s one of the reasons why New York will be so crucial. A whopping 95 Republican delegates and 291 Democratic delegates will be awarded by New Yorkers next Tuesday, making it one of the biggest prizes of the primary calendar.
A big win here could go a long way to putting Clinton and Trump over the top. And most polls point to just that. A poll conducted by Monomuth University released last week showed Trump with 52 percent support, far ahead of Kasich and Cruz, who pulled 25 percent and 17 percent, respectively. A YouGov News Poll gave Clinton a ten point margin over Sanders, 53 percent to 43 percent.
The Democrats will debate live from Brooklyn on CNN Thursday night at 9 p.m., while the Republicans have no debates scheduled for the rest of the primary season.
New York’s polls open at 6 a.m. Tuesday and will close at 9 p.m.