Hillary Clinton claimed that she was finally in “the homestretch” of the Democratic nomination battle Tuesday night after halting Bernie Sanders’s comeback with a decisive victory in the New York primary.
Sanders spent the week sowing the seeds of doubt within Clinton’s coalition—blistering her for her association with Wall Street, holding a series of mega-rallies, collecting a host of celebrity endorsements, and out-spending her by 2-1 on TV ads.
He needed a win, or a very close finish, to maintain the momentum in his unlikely bid to upset Clinton, but the Brooklyn native was defeated by more than 15 points.
“Victory is in sight!” declared Clinton at a New York rally. Staffers near the back of the room hugged each other—visibly relieved that this particularly ugly part of the primary campaign had concluded.
The Democratic race had taken a turn for the combative in New York—a family feud that played out in prime time last week during the debate in Brooklyn.
At about a quarter to 10, “Another One Bites the Dust” blasted through the Sheraton ballroom—at the same moment Clinton tweeted her thanks to New York for electing her statewide yet again. With 98 percent of the precincts declared, she was leading 57.9 percent to 42.1 percent.
“You proved once again there’s no place like home,” she said. “This one is personal.”
She claimed the race was all but over and that a certain wild-haired socialist might start thinking about packing it in.
Clinton even tried to knock the assumption that the Sanders campaign had a monopoly on excitement. “Tonight I want to say to all of my supporters and all of the voters: You have carried us every step of the way with passion and conviction that some critics have tried to dismiss,” she said, a campaign version of a “We’ve Got Spirit” taunt.
After days of massive, confidence-boosting rallies, most Sanders supporters were were likely in no mood to listen, but Clinton also tried to reach out. “I believe there is much more that unites us than divides us,” she said.
Judging by Sanders’s fundraising email blast as the results came in, the Vermont senator is not about to give up and unite behind the frontrunner.
“Sisters and Brothers,” it began. “We didn’t get the victory we had hoped for this evening, but what’s important is that it looks like we’re going to win a lot more delegates in New York than any state that voted or caucused before tonight.”
He then suggested a donation of $2.70 to keep the Bern going.
Despite the Sanders insurgency, Hillary Clinton has looked every inch the Democratic nominee for years.
Across town Tuesday night, Donald Trump walked through the lobby of Trump Tower, looking more like a potential nominee than a celebrity for the first time.
He entered to Frank Sinatra’s “New York, New York,” bathed in the red and blue lights that have decorated each of his victory speeches to date. He shook hands and hugged bystanders before taking to the lectern, surrounded by his family and friends like Carl Paladino, the failed gubernatorial candidate.
Ten months ago, on June 16, Trump was in this very room. In what he now believes to be an iconic scene, he came down the escalator with his wife, Melania, and into a sea of reporters and paid extras pretending to be fervent fans. Back then he seemed like a sideshow, and Beltway analysts and pundits predicted he would fizzle out quickly.
This time the escalator was frozen. His fans stood on it and peered down at him as he spoke. He had just won his 20th contest—with more than 60 percent of the vote—and added to his substantial delegate lead, on his way to the 1,237 needed to secure the Republican nomination.
The event was billed as a “press conference” by Trump’s campaign, but he didn’t take any questions, instead giving a condensed version of his stump speech that focused primarily on jobs. He promised not just to Make America Great Again, but to make it “really, legitimately, so great.”
But as always, politics—not policy specifics—preoccupied the candidate.
“We’re gonna end at a very high level and get a lot more delegates than anybody projected in their wildest imaginations,” he said.
“This has been an incredible evening. It’s been an incredible day and week!” he said. “It has really been something amazing.”
Like Clinton, he suggested it was time for primary season to come to an end.
“We don’t have much of a race anymore, based on what I’m seeing on television,” he added, “Sen. Cruz is just about mathematically eliminated—and we’ve won another state.”
Ted Cruz was beaten into third place in the New York primary with just 14.5 percent of the vote, while Ohio Gov. John Kasich was at 25.1 percent with 98 percent of precincts counted.
“We expect we’re going to have an amazing number of weeks,” he said.
“We’re going to go into the convention, I think, as a winner—and nobody can take an election away the way they’re doing it in the Republican Party,” he said.