Clinton: 'The race for the nomination is in the home stretch'

Democrat poised to clinch the Democratic nomination and becoming the first woman to reach that milestone

Democratic U.S. presidential candidate Hillary Clinton greets supporters after a forum at Denmark-Olar Elementary School in Denmark, South Carolina, February 12, 2016. (Jonathan Ernst/Reuters)

Hillary Clinton in South Carolina, February 12, 2016. (Jonathan Ernst, Reuters)

WASHINGTON — Hillary Clinton emerged from New York’s presidential primary closer to clinching the Democratic nomination and becoming the first woman to reach that milestone. Republican Donald Trump strengthened his own path to the general election with a commanding victory, but has little room for error in the states ahead.

The front-runners now hope to replicate their strong showings in New York in the cluster of Northeastern states next up on the primary calendar.

Following her win in New York, a jubilant Clinton made clear she was moving past her unexpectedly competitive primary battle with Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders and setting her sights on the general election.

“The race for the nomination is in the home stretch, and victory is in sight,” Clinton declared to cheering supporters. She mentioned Sanders only briefly as she appealed for support from his loyal backers, and saved her toughest talk for Trump and Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, deeming both “dangerous” for America.

Trump, too, is eager to move past the Republican primaries. With at least 89 of New York’s 95 delegates in hand, he insisted it was “impossible” for any of his rivals to catch him and warned party leaders against trying to take the nomination away from him at the convention.

Ohio Gov. John Kasich won at least three New York delegates; Texas Sen. Ted Cruz was in danger of getting shut out. Neither has a mathematical chance of clinching the nomination before the Republican convention in July, though they hope to block Trump’s path and overtake him at the Republican gathering.

Clinton’s triumph padded her delegate lead, putting her 80 per cent of the way toward clinching the Democratic nomination that eluded her eight years ago.

Exit polls suggested Democrats were ready to rally around whomever the party nominates. Nearly 7 in 10 Sanders supporters in New York said that they would definitely or probably vote for Clinton if she is the party’s pick.

Sanders energized young people and liberals in New York, as he has across the country, but it wasn’t enough to pull off the upset victory he desperately needed to change the trajectory of the Democratic race. Still, the Vermont senator vowed to keep competing.

“We’ve got a shot to victory,” Sanders said in an interview with The Associated Press. However, his senior adviser, Tad Devine, said later that the campaign planned to “sit back and assess where we are” after a string of contests next week.

Of the 247 Democratic delegates at stake in New York, Clinton picked up at least 135 while Sanders gained at least 104.

Trump now leads the Republican race with 845 delegates, ahead of Cruz with 559 and Kasich with 147. Securing the Republican nomination requires 1,237.

Among Democrats, Clinton now has 1,930 delegates to Sanders’ 1,189. Those totals include both pledged delegates from primaries and caucuses and superdelegates, the party insiders who can back the candidate of their choice regardless of how their state votes. It takes 2,383 to win the Democratic nomination.

AP writers Thomas Beaumont, Lisa Lerer, Ken Thomas, Jill Colvin, Emily Swanson and Steve Peoples contributed to this report.