Power Shifts In The Big Apple

Richard Elliott, UMBC:

The Democratic primaries have been surprisingly close. A self-described democratic socialist from Vermont who was polling at an impressive 3% when he declared his candidacy has surged, winning eight of the last nine states. Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who was polling around 61% when Senator Bernie Sanders entered the race, is now only polling about one point higher than Sanders. However, Clinton still has a massive lead among superdelegates and a solid lead amongst pledged delegates. At present, Clinton has 1,307 delegates versus Sanders’ 1,097 – a mere 210 delegate lead. New York alone is worth 247 pledged delegates and 44 superdelegates.

This has enormous implications for the race. If Sanders can win the state, it will clearly show that his campaign has strong momentum whereas Clinton’s is collapsing. If Sanders can emerge from New York victorious by even the narrowest of margins, it will continue the strong showing. His campaign has already outraised Clinton’s for the past 3 months and could continue this trend with his storm of small personal contributions. Winning New York would obviously put a dent in the pledged delegate count and would position him well for the April 26th primary in Connecticut, Delaware, Maryland, Rhode Island, and Pennsylvania. Considering that these are all semi-closed primaries where only registered Democrats can vote, he’ll need all the help he can get. The Sanders campaign has been endorsed by NYC native and African-American filmmaker Spike Lee, and several rallies have been planned for the week preceding the primary. Sanders’ campaign strategy is to rail against fracking and the loss of manufacturing jobs in upstate New York, where he is polling the best. However, Sanders’ campaign manager Jeff Weaver stated that “we don’t need to win, to win.” Showing that Clinton is not invincible will provide forward momentum for the campaign.

On the other hand, Clinton can essentially stop Sanders’ revolution with a solid win in New York. Clinton did represent the state as a Senator from 2001-2009 and has received endorsements from the mayor of New York City, Bill De Blasio, Governor Andrew Cuomo, and the New York Times. Clinton is also ahead in polling, with a 13 point lead on Sanders in the latest polls. The campaign strategy on her side is to highlight her policy on guns, where she is to the left of Sanders, along with her strong representation of New York in Congress. She can rely on her strong support amongst black, Hispanic and other non-white voters to do well in New York City.

The pivotal debate on April 14th has set the tone for the race going forward. Rather than insulting Republicans, the Clinton campaign set its target on Sanders. Accusations and insults were also hurled back towards Clinton. For instance, Sanders said that he questioned the judgment of the former Secretary of State for supporting the war in Iraq and accepting campaign contributions from Wall Street, while Clinton attacked Sanders for his positions on guns and his vote for the 1994 crime bill. The most interesting debate was the demand for transparency on Clinton’s Wall Street speeches. Clinton said she would release the transcripts after Sanders released his tax information, which he recently did.

According to CNN’s Political Predictor, Hillary Clinton has a 91% chance of winning the New York primary and has a 17% lead in the polls. However, in the Michigan primary, Clinton had over a 99% chance of winning according to FiveThirtyEight, an award winning election/news blog that correctly guessed every state’s vote in the 2012 election,  and had a 37% lead in the most recent polling, but Sanders still won Michigan. Either Sanders continues to keep the momentum of his campaign going or Clinton shuts the door on the grassroots movement, and it’s shaping up to be huge.


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