NEW YORK Republican Donald Trump and Democrat Hillary Clinton began setting their sights on November's general election on Wednesday, with a new poll showing Clinton would handily win such a matchup.
Trump's crushing defeat of Ted Cruz in Tuesday's party nominating contests in New York tilted the energy in the Republican race back to the front-runner. Clinton's win over Bernie Sanders, while narrower, broke a string of victories by the democratic socialist and gave her a much-needed lift.
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.
"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.
If he and Clinton do go on to secure their respective parties' nomination for the Nov. 8 election, opinion polls show Clinton with a sizeable lead. A Reuters/Ipsos poll put the former secretary of state ahead by 10 percentage points in a matchup with the billionaire businessman.
Cruz, a U.S. senator from Texas, dismissed his rival's victory in New York as a predictable win.
"Upon winning his home state, Donald, with a characteristic display of humility, declared this race is over," he said during a Pennsylvania campaign stop.
Cruz, who has argued that Trump would lose the election for Republicans, added with scathing irony: "Manhattan has spoken, and if the rest of the voters would quietly go home now and allow him to give the general election to Hillary, all would be better."
Trump, a former reality TV star, has adapted a more measured tone in recent days and appears to be trying to heal wounds inflicted by a campaign that has alarmed many in the Republican establishment. He sent campaign advisers to a Republican National Committee meeting in Hollywood, Florida starting 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, 45, came in third in New York. 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, 68, 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.
The former U.S. senator from New York appealed to Sanders' supporters with an emphasis on what the two opponents have in common.
Sanders, a U.S. senator from Vermont, is not clearing the way yet: his campaign said he would fight on until the Democrats’ nominating convention in Philadelphia July 25-28.
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.
In the latest Reuters/Ipsos national poll of likely general election voters, 45 percent said they would support Clinton while 35 percent would support Trump if the two were running against each other. The April 15-19 poll surveyed 1,334 people and had a credibility interval of 3.1 percentage points.
(Additional reporting by Alana Wise, Megan Casella, Doina Chiacu in Washington; Chris Kahn and Jonathan Allen in New York and Emily Stephenson in Philadelphia; Writing by Doina Chiacu and Jeff Mason; Editing by Frances Kerry)
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Updated Date: Apr 21, 2016 00:01 AM