Donald Trump's Chances In NY Are Good, But...

The New York primary is on Tuesday, and for the first time in decades, it could actually play a decisive role in determining the GOP's presidential nominee. If Donald Trump does well enough in his home state, his path to 1,237 delegates will become substantially easier. If he underperforms, it's going to be exceedingly difficult for him to hit that number, and the odds of a contested convention will spike. So, will Donald Trump win the New York primary?

Yes. Yes, he will. OK, I'm not psychic, but there's really not much of a question about this. Trump has an average polling lead of 32 percent going into the state, at the time of writing. That's as close to an insurmountable lead as you can get in American politics. If Trump somehow managed to lose the state, it would be one of the biggest polling screw-ups in the history of American presidential primaries. So yeah, Trump is probably going to win.

But in New York, winning isn't everything. Thanks to New York's complex delegate allocation method, a candidate can't simply come in first place and win all of the state's 95 delegates. Because New York distributes delegates at both the statewide and congressional level, a candidate needs to do well across the entire state in order to maximize their delegate haul, and that's where it becomes harder to assess Trump's chances.

Eduardo Munoz Alvarez/Getty Images News/Getty Images

To get into the weeds a bit here, there are two types of delegates in New York. At-large delegates ostensibly represent the whole state, while congressional district delegates only represent individual districts. If a candidate wins a majority of the statewide vote, they get all of the 14 at-large delegates. Meanwhile, each of the state's 27 congressional districts is worth three delegates, and if a candidate wins a majority of the vote in any given congressional district, they get all three. If nobody wins a majority at the state level or in an individual district, the delegates are distributed proportionally.

Because of these rules, candidates have an incentive to compete aggressively (because they want to get over 50 percent) and across the entire state (because the lion's share of the delegates are won at the congressional district level). Here's the thing: Even though New York itself has been surveyed extensively, district-wide polling data of New York Republicans doesn't exist. And what's more, the majority of New York's congressional districts have more Democrats than Republicans to begin with.

This makes it extremely hard to predict how many delegates Trump will win on Tuesday. The biggest question here isn't whether or not he'll win the statewide vote — after all, only 14 of the state's 95 delegates are awarded at the state level. The biggest question is how well he does in every single congressional district, and whether he's winning districts with pluralities, which will only get him two delegates each, or majorities, which will get him three.

This is all wonky stuff, but it emphasizes once again that this year, arcane delegate rules matter a lot more than normal. Because of how close the Republican race is, Trump needs absolutely every delegate he can get, and in New York, he'll have to fight for them one by one.