NEW YORK: Billionaire Donald Trump and former secretary of state Hillary Clinton won sweeping victories in the New York primary Tuesday, bolstering their bids to secure the Republican and Democratic nominations for the White House.
It was the most decisive New York primary in decades and leaves self-styled democratic socialist Bernie Sanders with a tough decision on how to proceed as Clinton extends her overwhelming lead over the Vermont senator.
US networks called the race for Trump seconds after the polls closed, signaling a crushing victory that is likely to alarm his opponents desperately hoping to block his path to the nomination with a contested party convention in July.
Both Clinton and Trump will now look to replicate their wins in Connecticut, Delaware, Maryland, Pennsylvania and Rhode Island, which hold primaries on April 26, as they edge closer toward a general election in November.
“To the people that know me the best – the people of New York – when they give us this kind of a vote it’s just incredible,” a delighted Trump, flanked by his family, told a Manhattan victory party.
Trump, whose campaign has appalled the Republican establishment, won 60.5 percent of the vote to 14.5 for his evangelical rival Ted Cruz and 25.1 for Ohio Governor John Kasich, with most of the votes counted, CNN said.
“Senator Cruz is just about mathematically eliminated,” declared the 69-year-old to cheers and applause from supporters at Trump Tower.
The Texas senator, who has projected himself as the only Republican capable of beating Trump, is widely disliked across the state for insulting New York’s supposedly non-conservative values earlier in the campaign.
CNN predicted Trump would take at least 89 of the 95 Republican Party delegates up for grabs in New York.
Clinton relished the victory in her adopted home state to stall momentum generated by Sanders who won seven out of the eight previous nominating contests.
“Thank you New York,” she said to chants of “Hillary, Hillary, Hillary” from jubilant supporters in a Manhattan hotel, where she walked on stage with her husband Bill Clinton and heavily pregnant daughter Chelsea.
“Today you proved once again there’s no place like home,” said the 68-year-old candidate looking to make history as the first woman president of the United States.
“The race for the Democratic nomination is in the home stretch and victory is in sight.”
Appeal for party unity
The former first lady and New York senator won 57.9 percent of the vote to 42.1 for Sanders, CNN said based on more than 90 percent of precincts.
Clinton extended an olive branch to supporters of Sanders, who has galvanized millions of young voters with his calls for healthcare as a right, free college education and campaign finance reform.
“I believe there’s much more that unites us than divides us,” she said.
While New York City is largely Democrat, Republicans in rural areas and fallen manufacturing cities upstate warmed to Trump’s populist message, despite his insults towards women, Mexicans and Muslims.
The three main candidates also claimed New York as 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.
The 74-year-old Sanders had hoped for a much closer margin to keep alive his White House dreams.
Clinton now leads with 1,930 delegates compared to 1,223 for Sanders, according to a CNN tally – putting her even more firmly on course to clinch the 2,383 needed to secure the party’s presidential nomination.
New York’s 247 Democratic delegates and 44 superdelegates are the party’s second largest state haul, second only to California, which votes in June.
But there were deep frustrations over New York’s strict rules governing the vote, particularly among independent voters not allowed to participate and who could have been expected to favor Sanders.
Voters and rights monitors reported numerous errors on voting lists in Brooklyn, including the purging of entire buildings and blocks of voters from the electoral roll.
Only New York’s 5.8 million Democrats and 2.7 million Republicans who registered by last October – four months before the nation’s first caucus election in Iowa – were eligible to vote.