The New York primary has put the frontrunners back in the driver's seat.
Both Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump commandingly won their respective contests, and both will expand their already sizable delegate leads — though we'll have to wait until more votes are counted to know by how much exactly. And New York voters finally got a chance to show Ted Cruz what they thought of his mockery of their "values," by dealing him a humiliating defeat.
Meanwhile, the Bernie Sanders campaign is resorting to increasingly absurd arguments to justify how Sanders can mount a comeback. And, unfortunately for New York's independent voters, many were locked out of participating tonight by an absurdly early deadline for changing their party registrations. So here are three winners and two losers from New York's primary night.
Winner: Donald Trump
It was no surprise that Trump won New York, but the real drama in the state was over how many of its 95 delegates he'd manage to pick up. To truly dominate in delegates, he'd need to win more than 50 percent of the vote statewide and in as many of the state's 27 congressional districts as possible.
Now, the votes are still being counted, so this isn't settled yet. But early indications are that Trump will pick up the vast majority of the state's delegates. At press time, Trump was over 50 percent in the statewide tally and in all but a few congressional districts.
If that performance holds up, that would make for a yuge delegate haul that would greatly help Trump in his quest for a delegate majority. For instance, if he wins 89 of New York's delegates he'll be 391 away from the nomination, and would have to win just 53 percent of the remaining unbound and uncommitted delegates to get there.
This would be fantastic news for Trump after a difficult stretch where his campaign has appeared on the ropes, and could position him well going into the five more Northeastern and mid-Atlantic contests being held next week.
Winner: Hillary Clinton
Like Trump, Clinton was desperate for a strong showing in her home state to help her turn the page after a difficult month (in which she lost seven of eight contests to Bernie Sanders and sank in national polls). And she got it in New York — at press time, she was easily beating Sanders 58 percent to 42 percent, with about three-fifths of the votes counted.
Even more importantly, Clinton's victory in the second-biggest contest remaining means she'll expand her delegate lead — and therefore her grip on the nomination — at a moment when Sanders really needed to start regaining ground.
If Clinton does end up winning 58 percent of New York's delegates, her pledged delegate lead over Sanders would expand from about 200 to about 250. Sanders would then need to win 59 percent of all the pledged delegates remaining to get a pledged delegate majority — and then he'd have to flip a great many superdelegates to his side, too.
All that is to say that the math for Bernie Sanders looked tough before New York — and it looks even tougher now.
Winner: New York values
Back in January, when he was desperate to win the Iowa caucuses, Ted Cruz insulted New York values onstage during a Republican debate.
Today, New York voters showed they don't care one bit for Ted Cruz's values, thank you very much. State Republicans who turned out today voted against Cruz in droves — at press time, he was in a distant third place behind both Trump and John Kasich, with just 15 percent of the vote. He might even pick up zero of the state's 95 delegates.
It's a disastrous start to a stretch of the calendar that promises to be tough for the Texan, with five more Northeastern and mid-Atlantic states voting next week. Cruz's embarrassing performance in New York could well lead anti-Trump voters in those states to opt to back Kasich instead. Future presidential candidates will likely think twice before opportunistically slamming New Yorkers.
Loser: The Bernie Sanders campaign
Time is running out for Bernie Sanders. The Vermont senator has been on a good streak, but he's remained about 200 pledged delegates behind Clinton, and his loss in New York will set him back yet further, with fewer and fewer delegates remaining.
The Sanders campaign has not responded to these setbacks very well. Team Sanders has refused to acknowledge that Clinton is on track to beat Sanders practically any way you slice and dice the outcomes so far — by pledged delegates, by superdelegates, by actual votes, or by state outcomes.
Instead, flailing about for a justification to stay in the race, they've recently decided to flip-flop on their old criticisms of superdelegates and argue that Sanders's path forward will rely on them. Campaign manager Jeff Weaver said on MSNBC Tuesday night that Sanders would not concede if he trailed Clinton when voting concludes in June, and that he'd instead focus on trying to woo superdelegates to his side.
That's absurd on its face, since most superdelegates are party loyalists with little enthusiasm for Sanders. And one problem for Democrats is that some Sanders supporters believe the nomination is being "stolen" from him rather than that he is simply losing, as my colleague Jeff Stein has reported.
Loser: Independent voters
In primary time, six months ago is an eternity. And yet any unaffiliated registered voter who wanted to participate in New York's closed primary had to change his or her registration all the way back then, in mid-October.
This is a shame. Whatever you may think of closed primaries (they have their merits and demerits), that deadline is just absurdly early. It hurts participation, and it's a disappointment to many voters who were only recently drawn in to a historic election campaign (including, er, two of Donald Trump's children).
In fact, the October 2015 deadline to change party registration was the earliest in any state holding a closed primary, according to FiveThirtyEight's Leah Libresco. Sure, Sanders's new criticisms of closed primaries may be a bit opportunistic. But New York should give voters at least some more time to decide whether they want to sign up with a party.