Why The New York Primary Is So Important For Each & Every Candidate

New York will hold its primary elections for both the Republican and Democratic presidential candidates on April 19. The Big Apple state has a big delegate count at stake, and each candidate has some serious skin in this game. Here's why the New York primaries are so important.

The race comes as Sanders rides a wave of momentum from a hot streak in late-March and early-April primaries, and as buzz about a potential brokered convention on the Republican side ramps up. On the Democratic side, Sanders hopes to cut into Clinton's 200-or-so delegate lead (Washington's congressional district delegates haven't been allocated yet, so an exact total isn't available). New York's 247 pledged Democratic delegates will be allocated proportionally, meaning candidates will get roughly the share of delegates as they do the popular vote.

Leading up to the primaries, polls have shown Clinton with a steady lead in the lower teens over Sanders, according to Real Clear Politics. If polls are any indication, both candidates will walk away with plenty of delegates from the state. Sanders will no doubt hope to cut into Clinton's lead with an upset in New York, but a more tempered hope would be not to see her lead increase substantially.

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Delegates won't be the only takeaway from New York. A decent performance — say, a near-tie — in the state would help Sanders challenge the narrative that he is only successful in highly-white states, which persists even after he won in Hawaii, Alaska, and Washington on March 26. A win in New York is equally important for Clinton — not only to maintain or increase her delegate lead, but to win in her current home state, where she served as a senator from 2001 to 2009. A failure to do so would pose perhaps the strongest challenge yet to the idea that she's the inevitable nominee.

The Republican candidates, for their part, have reason to be biting their nails over the New York primary. Though Donald Trump has a strong delegate lead and is the only Republican candidate with a shot at winning the 1,237 delegates needed for the nomination, it's not guaranteed that he will be able to get them in the remaining primaries. New York's 95 Republican delegates are highly important, since Trump needs fewer than 500 more to get the nomination. If he doesn't get enough, we're in for a brokered convention.

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That Trump will win in New York, his home state, is fairly certain. The Real Clear Politics polling average puts him at 53.8 percent, compared to Gov. John Kasich's 21.9 and Sen. Ted Cruz's 17.9 (at the time of writing). These numbers are particularly suspenseful because of the way New York Republican delegates are allocated.

Josh Putnam at Frontloading HQ broke it down for us: If a candidate gets over 50 percent of the statewide vote, he gets an automatic 14 delegates. If a candidate gets below 20 percent, he is ineligible for any of those 14. If no candidate gets above 50 percent, then the 14 delegates are allocated proportionally to anyone who gets more than 20 percent.

The rest of the state's delegates are allocated based on who wins in congressional districts. Again, a candidate needs at least 20 percent of the vote within a district to qualify for any of its three delegates, and a candidate who gets more than 50 percent gets all three. If nobody gets more than 50 percent, the top votegetter earns two delegates, and the runner-up gets one in the district.

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So, having two candidates polling right around 20 percent (the qualifying threshold) and Trump just barely over 50 (the winner-take-all trigger) leaves us fairly uncertain of what will happen. If Trump clears 50 percent statewide and in most districts, he'll walk away with a big haul. If he falls below that trigger, though, and the other two candidates bump up over 20 percent, he'll be in trouble.

Will Clinton substantially strengthen her lead over Sanders? Will Trump move one step away from a brokered convention? Tuesday will tell.