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NY primary brings Clinton-Trump battle into focus

New Yorkers helped Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump quiet the doubters.

In her adopted home state, the former first lady, senator and secretary of state defeated New York-bred Bernie Sanders by a robust margin of 15 percentage points. The significance of her victory, after a series of small-state defeats, was not the modest extension of her already wide delegate lead. It was in denying the socialist senator from Vermont the sort of lopsided victory that represents his only, flickering hope for the Democratic nomination, and allowing her to turn her attention to November.

Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump.
Getty Images (l) | Reuters (r)
Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump.

"We are going to keep our families safe and our country strong," Clinton said in celebration. "And we're going to defend our rights: civil rights, voting rights, workers' rights, women's rights, LGBT rights, and rights for people with disabilities. Those are, after all, New York values and they are American values."

New York Republicans similarly buoyed Trump. After his loss to Texas Sen. Ted Cruz in Wisconsin two weeks ago, the bombastic billionaire faced predictions from intraparty foes of declining momentum that would deny him the 1,237 delegates he needs for the Republican nomination and lead to brokered convention.

By sweeping New York by more 30 percentage points, and winning the overwhelming majority of its vast delegate haul, Trump returned himself to a path for first-ballot victory in Cleveland. More states where he has regional strength — including Pennsylvania, Maryland and Connecticut — hold primaries on Tuesday.

With anxiety rising among the party's significant stop-Trump faction, the front-runner warned against attempts to thwart him by using Republican delegate rules.

"Even though we're leading by a lot and we can't be caught — it's impossible to catch us — nobody should take delegates and claim victory unless they get those delegates with voters and voting," Trump said in his victory speech. "And that's what's going to happen. And you watch, because the people aren't going to stand for it. It's a crooked system; it's a system that's rigged; and we're going to go back to the old way — it's called you vote and you win."

The result brings into sharper focus the general election Trump vs. Clinton matchup that began emerging weeks ago. It's one where Clinton begins with a clear advantage, based on the Democratic Party's proven electoral track record in recent elections and the intense resistance to Trump among significant chunks of the electorate.

Yet his unconventional candidacy — recently bolstered by the hiring of experienced campaign strategist Paul Manafort — represents a wild card. He hopes to flip Democratic-leaning Rust Belt states by swelling the GOP's edge among white working class voters. Looking toward the fall, Clinton's strategists are both confident and wary.

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