Polls are just closing (9pm locally, or 11am eastern Australian time) in the New York primary. It’s the only contest for the week in the presidential election, but it’s a big one: the fourth most populous state in the union, with 95 Republican and 163 Democrat delegates to be selected.
For the Republicans, three delegates will be chosen for each of the 27 congressional districts: if one candidate gets more than half the votes in that district, they get all three, otherwise it’s two to the winner and one to the runner-up. The remaining 14 delegates are allocated statewide in the same sort of way; a candidate who gets more than 50% gets all of them, otherwise they’re allocated proportionally (with a 20% threshold).
Donald Trump has been running at just over 50% in the polls, so he’s expected to get the lion’s share of delegates. His two opponents, Ted Cruz and John Kasich, will want to keep him below the 50% mark statewide, and also to pick off as many congressional districts as they can.
Trump, who hasn’t been having a good couple of weeks, has been complaining that the Republican establishment has rigged the process against him. That’s mostly unfounded, but New York is a good example of how the rules do distort outcomes – although not necessarily in ways that disadvantage Trump.
New York is a very heterogeneous state, so congressional districts contain widely varying numbers of Republican voters. But they all get three delegates, so those in heavily Republican areas – which naturally tend to be more “establishment” in character – are systematically under-represented. Republican voters who live in safe Democrat districts, on the other hand, are disproportionately influential.
In much of the country, that seems to be working in his favor: white Republicans who live in working-class neighborhoods are a pro-Trump force. In New York it’s not so clear – there’ll be some of that effect, but the safe Democrat districts of Manhattan and Brooklyn are notable for high levels of education, and the highly-educated have not been very receptive to Trump’s message.
Harry Enten at FiveThirtyEight has a good district-by-district preview of the Republican race – check it out.
On the Democrat side, it’s again a simple two-horse race, with all delegates awarded proportionally (some statewide, some by congressional district). So a 51-49 vote one way has almost the same effect as 51-49 the other way, although it may make for a very different media narrative.
Both candidates can claim New York in a sense as their home state: Bernie Sanders because he was born there, and Hillary Clinton because she now lives there and represented it for eight years in the Senate. To stay in touch for the nomination, Sanders really needs to win today or at least come exceptionally close.
Both the polls and the betting market suggest that task is beyond him: Clinton has been consistently showing double-digit leads in the polls and the odds give her a 93.5% chance of victory. But this campaign has already had its share of upsets, so let’s wait and see just what turns up.
*UPDATE 9.45pm (New York time)*
The networks called the Republican race for Trump just on the basis of the exit polls. With 34% of precincts in, he’s leading with 63.3% to Kasich on 22.4% and Cruz 14.4%. As I said, it’s not a very homogeneous state, so the numbers will bounce around a bit, but no doubts about Trump topping the 50% mark statewide.
It’s a good result for Kasich, though: he’s actually leading Trump in Manhattan, 44.3% to 42.6% with about 80% counted, so he could pick up one or two congressional districts there.
Clinton is well ahead on the Democrat side, but not by as much, and the exit polls only gave her a narrow margin. She’s currently sitting on 60.5% to 39.5% for Sanders.
You can see what I meant about the disproportionate influence of Republicans in safe Democrat districts by looking at some of the raw numbers. In the Bronx, with rather more than half of precincts reporting, about 67,000 people have voted in the Democrat primary and less than 3,000 in the Republican.
*10.10pm (New York time)*
The Democrat race, unsurprisingly, has been called for Clinton. Her large lead is holding up; she’s currently on 59.3%, 18.6 points ahead of Sanders, with 54% in.
On the Republican side Trump is well clear pretty much across the board (still on 61.5% statewide), but there’s a close finish in the 12th congressional district (mostly East Side Manhattan), where he’s just 141 votes ahead of Kasich. You can follow the official state Board of Elections results here.
It’s still a very poor night for Cruz, who’s languishing at 14.3%, almost ten points behind Kasich.
I’ve also now read an interesting preview by my colleague Stephen Luntz, who argues that since Clinton is pretty much a certainty for both the nomination and the election, the main interest today (and in the primaries to come) is the contest between Trump and Cruz. If Trump wins the nomination, Cruz will be the front-runner in 2020, almost guaranteeing the Democrats another term.
But a Cruz victory now (and defeat in November) would open the way for a more moderate candidate (he actually says “apparently more moderate”) in 2020, which would be much more of a danger to a potential Clinton second term. I think he’s got a good point.
*11.35pm, New York time*
Pretty much all over now. Clinton’s lead has come down, as expected, but it’s still a very healthy 57.7% to 42.3%, with 93% now reporting. That’s going to seriously dent the Sanders momentum, which I think was a lost cause anyway but looks a lot more so now.
For the Republicans, Trump has 60.1% statewide and is carrying every county except Manhattan. Kasich has a respectable 25.1% and Cruz a very poor 14.7%. It’s going to make the other north-eastern primaries next week very interesting.
On delegates, Trump seems to have carried 26 of the 27 congressional districts, with Kasich just making it by 69 votes in the 12th. According to the Green Papers that will give him 90 out of a possible 95 – ahead of expectations, but still on track to fall short of an outright majority at the convention.