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Presidential Candidates Await Results Of New York Contests

KELLY MCEVERS, HOST:

Primary day has just ended in new York. Polls have closed. The votes are being counted. The Associated Press is projecting Donald Trump the winner of the contest on the Republican side. Tonight could also be a turning point on the Democratic side of things. A big win for Hillary Clinton could upend Bernie Sanders' chance at the nomination. Here to help us make sense of all this is national - NPR's national political correspondent Mara Liasson. Welcome to the show.

MARA LIASSON, BYLINE: Nice to be here.

MCEVERS: We've got reporter Brian Mann of North Country Public Radio via Skype from Westport in upstate New York. Hello, Brian.

BRIAN MANN, BYLINE: Hey. Thanks for having me on.

MCEVERS: And we have NPR's Tamara Keith who is in New York City with the Clinton campaign. Let's start with you, Mara. Three of the 5 candidates in this rate are from New York. Now we know Donald Trump is projected the winner of this race. The state has 95 delegates. When will we know how many of those delegates Trump is going to get?

LIASSON: I don't know.

MCEVERS: (Laughter).

LIASSON: It's going to - we have to count all the votes. The way it works in New York is if you get over 50 percent of the vote - and it certainly looks like he's heading to that - you get a certain number of statewide delegates. Then if you win over 50 percent of the votes in each congressional district, you get all three of the delegates in each of those districts. If you fall below 50 percent in a CD, you might only get two.

So Trump is hoping - there are 95 delegates altogether. He's hoping to sweep the state. He said at various times anything over 80 or over 75 would be good, but he's not going to get all 95. But he is going to get a lot. This is probably going to be his biggest win yet. He hasn't broken 50 percent in another state. It is his home state.

But even more than that - more than the fact that he has his name on a lot of buildings in New York, these are his voters. Upstate New York is economically depressed. He has Staten Island, which is a very pro-Trump borough in New York City. And this has been a great state for him. And he is speaking to his voters as we are speaking, and he is telling them, this has been an incredible day and an amazing week.

MCEVERS: Obviously a big win for Trump. What are these other New Yorkers, these other candidates looking to do tonight?

LIASSON: The other Republican candidates or...

MCEVERS: The other...

LIASSON: Well, the other Republican candidates are looking to just survive (laughter) to see...

MCEVERS: Right.

LIASSON: ...If they can maybe get a delegate or two, stop him from sweeping the whole thing. In terms of the Democratic side, the big story there is the margin. What margin will Hillary Clinton win by? She's leading now. Bernie Sanders was hoping to keep her in single digits so he could get some bragging rights and say that he came close to her in her home state.

But she's already got 2 million plus more votes than he has and several hundred more pledged delegates. So if she does win very big here tonight, the math is going to become out of reach for Sanders, and I think the narrative of the race will change.

MCEVERS: NPR's Tamara Keith, you are there, as we said, with the Clinton campaign. Hello.

TAMARA KEITH, BYLINE: Hello.

MCEVERS: And what's going on there at the Clinton camp tonight?

KEITH: Well, there are people dancing - not her staff necessarily. But you know, her campaign has been watching the polls. They've been looking at their internal numbers, and they've been trying to downplay expectations. But by downplay, it simply means, you know, maybe it would be less than a 10 percent margin.

And we are still waiting to figure out what the margin would be. Her campaign is also turning its attention toward what comes ahead. And they've been concerned about the tone that the campaign has taken in the last couple of weeks in New York, and they believe that if it were to continue like that in that sort of combative fashion, that it could do irreparable harm to Clinton who they now believe is the most likely nominee for the Democrats.

MCEVERS: Bernie Sanders is not in New York tonight but rather campaigning in Pennsylvania. What does that tell us about what he is thinking going forward, Tam?

KEITH: Well, Pennsylvania is one of the next states to vote. It's up next week, and he's moved on. He has moved on from the state where he was born and grew up. And his campaign has been talking about possible irregularities or concerns about independents not being able to vote in the closed primary in New York.

But it's a way of sort of downplaying the significance of this expected Clinton (inaudible). He also - his campaign has talked about, well, you know, in 2008, Clinton won by 17 points. Sanders is almost certainly going to keep it closer than that. But those are moral victories there. If Sanders doesn't win and, as Mara said, doesn't win by big numbers, then he has a math challenge.

And really, his path now, especially if the New York results continue to look like they do, his path becomes having to go to the convention and hope to convert so-called superdelegates - party establishment people - from supporting Clinton to supporting him even though it looks as though there's no way that he's going to catch her in pledged delegates or popular vote.

MCEVERS: That's NPR's Tamara Keith with the Clinton campaign in New York City. I know you have to run, so thanks for taking the time.

KEITH: You're welcome.

MCEVERS: And now we'll go to Brian Mann. You are in upstate New York, as we said, where both John Kasich and Donald Trump did campaign this week. Do you think those personal visits made a difference to voters there?

MANN: Well, they certainly didn't help John Kasich very much. This looked like Donald Trump territory going in, and he's just had a remarkably strong night up here. The crowds for him were big. The enthusiasm that I've been hearing here on the ground has been really strong - and so I would say very strong night for Donald Trump here and also, you know, so far looking like a very strong night for Bernie Sanders up here.

If there there is a bit of a firewall for him keeping the wheels from coming off here, it might very well be in these more white, upstate communities where his percentages are looking quite a bit better than in the, you know, the suburbs in the city.

MCEVERS: Right, communities that are also close to his home state of Vermont. Is that right?

MANN: That's right, yeah, right across Lake Champlain, and that seems to have had a big impact here. His sort of populace Democratic message in a lot of these really stressed upstate communities - that seems to have played really well.

And you know, Clinton used to be kind of a popular and powerful figure up here. She spent a lot of time in the North Country and in upstate New York when she was Senator, and that just doesn't seem to have played in this election in the way that I expected it to.

MCEVERS: And Mara, I want to come back to you and talk a little bit more about the Republicans and Donald Trump's win tonight. Is this a sign that the effort to stop Donald Trump, as we've been hearing so much about, is failing?

LIASSON: Well, the effort to stop Donald Trump has had one victory - Wisconsin. They were able to rally around one alternative to Trump, Ted Cruz. It was a very unusual state. You had the governor of the state endorse Cruz. You had the speaker of the House, who's a revered figure in Wisconsin, Paul Ryan, say some negative things about Trump. He didn't endorse anyone. You had a bunch of talk show hosts who were all aligned against him. So that was an unusual state. They haven't been able to do it anywhere else.

And they certainly couldn't do it in his home state. You have Mitt Romney this week saying that Kasich or Cruz should drop out. In other words, if you're going to beat Donald Trump, you need to rally around one alternative, but he didn't say which one. That kind of sums up the establishment's problem all along. They haven't really been able to agree on a strategy.

MCEVERS: And quickly, I know the stop-Trump effort is looking forward to the primary in Indiana. That's May 3. What's going to happen there?

LIASSON: Well, you know, Indiana as a state is very hard to poll, has a lot of Evangelical voters, real conservatives. Cruz should do well there. But don't forget. Before we get to Indiana, we have Connecticut, Rhode Island, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Delaware. Those are good Donald Trump states.

MCEVERS: That's NPR's Mara Liasson. Thanks so much.

LIASSON: Thank you.

MCEVERS: And reporter Brian Mann of North Country Public Radio, thanks to you, too.

MANN: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.