The state of New York began voting today in a high-stakes presidential primary tipped to hand Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump victories in the race to clinch the Democratic and Republican tickets to the White House.
The former secretary of state, first lady and New York senator leads the polls by double digits over her Brooklyn-born challenger, Bernie Sanders, even if nationwide surveys put them neck and neck.
Trump, the brash Manhattan billionaire whose controversial campaign has appalled the Republican establishment, is streets ahead of his evangelical rival Ted Cruz and Ohio Governor John Kasich.
The business tycoon is banking on a big home state victory in his quest to sew up the nomination before Republican grandees can deny him the ticket and anoint another candidate at the party convention in July.
The polls opened at 6:00 am (1000 GMT) and are due to close at 9:00 pm (0100 GMT Wednesday) when Clinton and Trump have scheduled what they hope will be victory parties in Manhattan.
To the disadvantage of Vermont senator Sanders, only New York’s 5.8 million registered Democrats and 2.7 million registered Republicans are eligible to vote. Independents are barred from participating.
With both races for the White House nomination so competitive, it is the most consequential New York primary in decades in the country’s fourth largest state that is home to an incredibly diverse electorate.
Uniquely, three of the candidates lay claim to calling New York home: Trump, who has never lived anywhere else, Clinton who was twice elected the state’s US senator, and Sanders who was raised in Brooklyn. “We all have a stake in America, that is what this election is about. Please, come out! Vote tomorrow,”
Clinton said Monday in an impassioned plea to become the country’s first woman president. She spent the day pressing the flesh in a whirlwind of campaign stops that included greeting nurses, stopping by a car wash, chatting to kitchen workers and eating ice cream.
In the evening, she made a joint appearance with her husband, former president Bill Clinton, at a Manhattan rally for Irish Americans.
A big victory in the state, which elected her over Barack Obama in 2008, would stall the momentum generated by her self-styled Democratic socialist rival who has won seven out of the last eight state votes.