Despite Bernie Sanders visibly enthusiastic support before the pivotal primary, Clintons campaign seems confident that Tuesday will be a night to celebrate
A New York spring is in the air in the parks and streets of the Big Apple as Bernie Sanders rallies tens of thousands of adoring supporters with a message of political revolution he hopes could still block Hillary Clintons seemingly unstoppable path to the Democratic presidential nomination.
But in the television studios and political salons, the focus is on the harsh reality of polling numbers and electoral mathematics ahead of Tuesdays crucial primary election showdown between the two increasingly bitter rivals.
Although some polls suggest Clintons once commanding lead may have shrunk in recent weeks, she remains an average of 13 points ahead, and few professional observers expect the former secretary state who represented New York for eight years in the US Senate and even beat Barack Obama in the 2008 New York primary will do anything other than win here again.
While Sanders plans to be off in Pennsylvania for more packed rallies before the next series of primaries on 26 April, Clinton is due to return to New York on Tuesday night for what she fully expects will be a victory party at the Sheraton hotel in Times Square.
And with Donald Trump even more comfortably ahead of rivals Ted Cruz and John Kasich in polling for New Yorks simultaneous Republican primary, a leading pro-Clinton fundraising committee has even begun reserving airtime for TV commercials ahead of what it considers to be the more important general election contest it sees looming in November.
Clintons increasingly confident aides were in combative mood before what could be the last significant contest of the Democratic primary, describing New York as must-win for Sanders who had a lot on the line.
If Sanders loses NYC to Clinton, will he say it is because it is in the southern part of New York state? taunted her spokesman, Brian Fallon, in response to suggestions that early wins in conservative-leaning states in the deep south had made Clintons national delegate lead look more unassailable than it really was.
The Sanders campaign, in contrast, is dialing back predictions of a win but remains buoyed instead by the undeniable enthusiasm among its supporters in the Empire state.
We dont have to win New York on Tuesday, but we have to pick up a lot of delegates, wrote his campaign manager, Jeff Weaver, in an email on Sunday that flagged an outlier poll suggesting he and Clinton could be within six points of each other. This poll shows that if we keep fighting, we may actually have a chance to do both. Itd be the most shocking upset in modern political history, he added.
But even by the Sanders campaigns own, more optimistic, estimates, it remains 214 pledged delegates behind Clinton in the race to reach the finishing line of 2,383, and further behind still if the calculation includes controversial superdelegates party elites who overwhelming favour Clinton. To overturn this delegate momentum, Sanders needs to win heavily, not just in New York but in most of the remaining contests.
Explaining the disconnect between the Bernie buzz and Clinton confidence has driven some political pundits to distraction. Harry Enten, a columnist with the data-driven website fivethirtyeight.com, once promised to pour a bucket of cold water over his head if Clinton fell behind in national polling, a pledge that could yet prove rash as the two close within a percentage point across the country.
The pundits argue instead that the 2016 primary is more than halfway through and the polling that really matters shows Clinton winning in all the states that look most similar to the demographic profile of Democrats nationwide.
But the buzz is infectious too. While Clinton drew a few hundred supporters to her rally in Staten Island on Sunday, Sanders drew a record 28,300 supporters to Prospect Park in Brooklyn on Sunday, where messages such as free college tuition and universal healthcare remain powerful stimulants.
I am literally walking away with goose bumps. I feel like I am going to cry, said 36-year-old Long Island makeup artist Jennifer Wright. I am a single mom. I have worked hard my whole life, I have never been on any kind of welfare, I have worked my ass off my whole life and I want to make sure my son has a fair chance at university. I am here for his generation.
Clinton supporters may be quieter, but have their own hopes and dreams too and are increasingly frustrated that they are being drowned out in the noise of the Sanders revolution.
Maxine Outerbridge, a 28-year-old accountant, took such umbrage with the public narrative that young voters are uninspired by Clinton that she wrote a letter to the campaign detailing why she was a supporter. She soon found herself introducing Clinton at the rally on Staten Island, at the historic Great Hall at Snug Harbor, two days before the New York primary.
Recounting how she became pregnant while still in school, Outerbridge said her daughter would not have access to health insurance had it not been for the State Childrens Health Insurance Program championed by Clinton and signed into law during her husbands administration. She also identified herself as a former victim of domestic violence while praising Clinton as an advocate for women.
She is a fighter, Outerbridge said. And so as a young woman, as a minority, as a domestic violence survivor, and as an aspiring entrepreneur, I support Hillary.
- This article was amended on 18 April 2016 to correct the number of years Hillary Clinton served as a US senator. She was in the Senate for eight years, not six.