Political experts in the states hosting presidential primary contests next week have a sobering message for candidates: If you can’t make it in New York, you probably cannot make it in their states either.
That’s bad news for everyone but Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump. Their respective victories in New York Tuesday thwarted momentum from weeks of wins by Senators Ted Cruz and Bernie Sanders.
Next week, the presidential race moves to five other states on the East Coast: Connecticut, Delaware, Maryland, Pennsylvania, and Rhode Island. If New York packed a punch in the primary, most of these states could serve a slow burn — a reminder to candidates that the delegate math will only become more difficult.
The big delegate prize will be Pennsylvania, where recent polls show Trump and Clinton with leads over their opponents.
Neither Bill Clinton nor Hillary Clinton have lost an election in the state, noted longtime Pennsylvania Democratic operative Larry Ceisler. He predicted this year’s Pennsylvania primary win would be even easier for Hillary Clinton than her 2008 battle against then-US Senator Barack Obama.
“In 2008 Obama had African-Americans, high-profile local endorsements, including the sitting US senator, and was the race’s front-runner. And Clinton won despite all that,” Ceisler said. “This year she adds to that winning coalition the African-American vote and momentum. It is hard to see how she doesn’t win here.”
The Republican primary in Pennsylvania is more complicated. Instead of voting for a candidate, Pennsylvania Republicans will directly pick delegates to attend the convention. Fifty-four of the delegates, elected on the Congressional District level, can vote however they please at this summer’s convention. Only the remaining 17 statewide delegates are bound to vote for a candidate based on the primary’s results.
“We have never seen so much attention aimed at the delegate process before,” said Pennsylvania Republican National Committeewoman Christine Toretti. “Delegate candidates I talk to are getting phone calls nonstop from the campaigns, the media, and from voters trying to figure out what it means if they vote for that person.”
Maryland will have the second most delegates up for grabs next week. Public Policy Polling surveys released this week showed Trump leading Ohio Governor John Kasich by 14 percent and Clinton ahead of Sanders by 25 points.
Clinton will probably also get a boost Tuesday from a competitive US Senate primary, in which one candidate is focused on driving African-American turnout — a demographic that has favored her. Kasich has a shot in Maryland thanks to the Washington, D.C., suburban counties, where the PPP poll showed him leading with 46 percent.
But if there is any place that could host an upset in the Democratic primary, it’s Connecticut.
“If you are going to make me bet, I would bet on Sanders right now,” said Ronald Schurin, a University of Connecticut political science professor.
Schurin said the typical Connecticut Democratic primaries are made up mostly of white, well-educated liberals — favorable demographics for Sanders in past primaries — from places such as West Hartford or Fairfield County. The key for Clinton will be driving up minority turnout in the cities of Bridgeport, New Haven, and Hartford.
There might also be an upset on the GOP side. Connecticut Republicans are more moderate than their counterparts in other parts of the country (and even in New England). Connecticut Republicans who don’t like Trump may not be in line with Cruz‘s conservative brand either.
That leaves Kasich, the most moderate candidate in the GOP field, but he lags far behind in the national delegate tally. Kasich has the backing of former Connecticut governor Jodi Rell and former US representative Chris Shays.
Rhode Island Republicans are similarly moderate, according to Providence College political science professor Joseph Cammarano. That’s good for Kasich, although it might be worth only a handful of delegates for him.
“The real Republican Party in Rhode Island is the conservative half of the Democratic Party coalition, and it is likely that many of these conservative Democrats have filed the needed form to vote in the Republican primary,” Cammarano said.
Clinton, he said, has successfully united the state’s Democratic establishment and progressive wing behind her, making the primary there less competitive. Both Clinton and Kasich have planned Saturday stops in the Ocean State.
Comparatively, candidates are not expected to spend much time in Delaware, the state with the least amount of delegates at stake on Tuesday.
“I have sensed very little organized effort from any of the candidates to date aimed at Delaware,” said Michael Castle, the former US representative, governor of Delaware, and Kasich backer.
James Pindell can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @jamespindell. Click here to subscribe to his daily e-mail update on the 2016 campaign.