NEW YORK Republican Donald Trump and Democrat Hillary Clinton cast their big wins in New York's nominating contests as a sign they are now all but unstoppable in their race to be the presidential nominees for their respective parties.
Trump's crushing defeat of Ted Cruz in Tuesday's primary election tilted the energy in the Republican race back to the front-runner, just as Republican National Committee members begin meeting in Florida on Wednesday to discuss their July convention, where the nominee will be chosen.
Clinton's win over Bernie Sanders, while narrower, broke a string of victories by the democratic socialist and gave the Democratic front-runner a much-needed lift.
The eventual winners of the party nominating campaigns will face each other in November's general election.
Trump's win marked a rebound from his Wisconsin defeat two weeks ago and set him up for another big night on April 26, when Pennsylvania, Connecticut, Rhode Island, Delaware, and Maryland will hold primaries.
Bolstering his campaign staff with experienced political strategists, real estate magnate Trump has sought to become a more polished candidate in recent weeks and his concise, measured victory speech reflected that effort.
"Ted Cruz is mathematically out of winning the race," Trump said Wednesday on Twitter. "Now all he can do is be a spoiler, never a nice thing to do. I will beat Hillary!"
Trump, 69, predicted some "amazing weeks" ahead for his campaign.
Still, the former reality TV star has a long way to go to seal the nomination and begin trying to heal wounds inflicted by a campaign that has alarmed many in the Republican establishment. There is a chance for some fence-mending when he sends campaign advisers to the RNC meeting starting in Hollywood, Florida, on Wednesday.
Trump's haul of most of New York's 95 delegates moved him closer to the 1,237 needed to win the nomination outright. Anything short of that will lead to a contested convention when Republicans hold their national conclave July 18-21 in Cleveland.
"There's only two issues left for Republicans: Will Trump get 50 percent of the delegates prior to Cleveland, and if not, how close will he be? New York gives him a nice boost, but it will take weeks before we know the answer," said Ari Fleischer, who was White House spokesman under President George W. Bush.
Cruz, a 45-year-old U.S. senator from Texas, came in third in New York and gave his primary night speech in Philadelphia, where he was already focused on the Pennsylvania contest. He called on Republicans to unite around his candidacy.
Ohio Governor John Kasich, 63, a long-shot candidate, sought to use his second-place showing in New York as proof he is emerging as Trump's central challenger.
Trump won at least 89 delegates in New York, while Kasich got at least three, according to a count by the Associated Press. Cruz did not win any, prompting Trump adviser Sarah Huckabee Sanders to urge him Wednesday on CNN to "get out of the way" once the math of delegate counts makes it impossible for him to prevail.
New York boosted Trump's delegate tally to 845, while Cruz has 559 and Kasich 147, according to the AP. Next Tuesday's contests offer 172 delegates for Republicans and more than 460 for Democrats.
CLINTON SEES 'VICTORY IN SIGHT'
Clinton, a 68-year-old former secretary of state and former U.S. senator from New York, said on Tuesday night the race for the Democratic nomination is now in "the home stretch, and victory is in sight."
Her win made it nearly impossible for Sanders, 74, to overtake her commanding lead in delegates needed to win the nomination. Clinton clinched at least 175 out of 291 New York delegates, while Sanders won at least 106, according to the AP.
Sanders' campaign said he would fight on until the Democrats’ nominating convention in Philadelphia July 25-28.
“Look, we're going to go to the convention," Sanders campaign manager Jeff Weaver told MSNBC. He said it was extremely unlikely that either candidate would have the delegates needed to win the nomination outright.
Democratic strategist Jim Manley said Clinton has the delicate task of trying to draw in Sanders supporters who have been attracted to his leftist campaign promises, while switching focus to the task of beating the eventual Republican nominee.
“She runs a risk. If she goes too far to the left she’s going to upset independents and others that she’s going to need in the general,” Manley said.
(Additional reporting by Alana Wise, Megan Casella, Doina Chiacu in Washington; Jonathan Allen in New York and Emily Stephenson in Philadelphia; Writing by Steve Holland and Doina Chiacu; Editing by Jonathan Oatis and Frances Kerry)
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Published Date: Apr 20, 2016 11:47 pm | Updated Date: Apr 20, 2016 11:47 pm