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Clinton earns big victory over Sanders

NEW YORK – Hillary Clinton scored a resounding double-digit victory Tuesday in the Democratic presidential primary in the state she represented in the U.S. Senate, crushing Bernie Sanders by a margin wide enough to prompt Clinton to start talking like the prospective nominee.

“Today the race for the Democratic nomination is in the home stretch and victory is in sight,” a beaming Clinton said to a raucous crowd of about 2,000 in a Sheraton New York ballroom.

After a furious two-week campaign that saw both candidates criss-crossing the state and flooding the airwaves with ads, the final vote looked much like Clinton’s earlier victories in her two Senate races and her 2008 bid for the presidency.

In other words, it wasn’t close.

With 94 percent of the vote reported, Clinton had 57.6 percent to 42.4 percent for Sanders.

She held leads in 21 of the state’s 27 congressional districts, and tallied lopsided wins in Queens, the Bronx and Yonkers, where she garnered more than 70 percent of the vote.

Sanders, meanwhile, led in several upstate congressional districts by smaller margins, pulling ahead of Clinton in the Albany, Watertown and Utica areas. He also won in New York’s Clinton County.

Sanders was leading in two Western New York congressional districts, represented by Chris Collins and Tom Reed, while Clinton held a lead in the Buffalo-area congressional district represented by Brian Higgins.

By the time she took the stage around 10:30 p.m., the margin of her victory was clear.

She began with thanks, but quickly turned to address the supporters of Sanders, the democratic socialist senator from Vermont who has won widespread support nationwide with an agenda to the left of Clinton.

“To those who supported Sen.Sanders, I believe there is much more that unites us than divides us,” she said.

And before long, she was talking as if she were a general election candidate, lashing into the leading Republican candidates, billionaire Donald Trump and Ted Cruz, the senator from Texas.

“Donald Trump and Ted Cruz are pushing a message for America that is divisive and frankly dangerous,” she said.

Tearing into Trump for calling for a ban on Muslim immigration and for calling for a wall at the Mexican border, Clinton promised to be the candidate who could bring the country together.

“We have a very different vision. It’s about lifting each other up, not tearing each other down,” she said.

Clinton then pivoted into an abbreviated version of her stump speech, calling for a broad agenda aimed at greater economic equity, the very message that Sanders has stressed.

The former first lady, senator and secretary of state criticized Sanders throughout the campaign as someone who did little more than make big promises, and while reaching out to his supporters, she echoed that theme on Tuesday.

“Under the bright lights of New York, you have showed it’s not enough to diagnose problems. You have to explain how you solve them,” she said.

For his part, Sanders seemed to give up on New York State at the last minute, scheduling two rallies in Pennsylvania on Tuesday without sending an advisory to the reporters who had been covering him in neighboring New York.

After first appearing in Erie, Pa., Sanders moved on to a rally in State College, Pa., where he spoke and left the stage before the New York results were announced.

“You know, we’re going to do just fine tonight in New York,” Sanders told the crowd of 7,000 in the Penn State field house. “The reason we’re going to do well is we’re doing something pretty radical in contemporary American politics: We are telling the truth. And the truth is we have a corrupt campaign finance system that is undermining American democracy.”

The loss came after an odd week for the Sanders campaign, in which he made a controversial trip to the Vatican only days before the primary and in which he endured stinging criticism for his lack of detailed answers in a New York Daily News endorsement interview.

Sanders plans to continue his campaign, but his immediate challenge is that the states on the primary calendar next week – Pennsylvania, Connecticut, Maryland, Delaware and Rhode Island – are in some ways politically similar to New York.

Maryland and Pennsylvania, for example, have significant African-American populations, a demographic group Clinton has consistently won big. New York exit polls, for example, showed Clinton winning among blacks by a 71 percent to 28 percent margin, NBC reported.

In addition, New York had a “closed” Democratic primary, where independents and Republicans could not cross over to vote for Clinton or Sanders. Of the next five primary states, only one, tiny Rhode Island, has an “open” primary. And thanks to his support among independents, every primary Sanders has won has been open.

Still, Sanders vowed to soldier on.

“Next Tuesday here in Pennsylvania there will be an enormously important Democratic primary. What I have learned so far in this campaign is that when voter turnout is high, we win,” Sanders said in State College. “When voter turnout is low, we lose. So next Tuesday let us have the highest voter turnout in Pennsylvania history.”

The margin of Clinton’s win, though, seemed to immediately turn the chattering classes against him.

“Any Hillary Clinton win tonight would be tough for Sanders to overcome. A double-digit win effectively closes the door,” Democratic consultant Joe Trippi said on Twitter.

Nate Silver, the respected vote- and delegate-counter who runs the FiveThirtyEight website, was even more pessimistic about Sanders’ prospects.

Silver wrote that Clinton’s odds of winning the Democratic nomination are now well over 90 percent.

“Whether it’s 95 percent or 99.5 percent, I’m not quite sure,” Silver wrote. “Tonight’s victory might have been emphatic enough that the media might stop implying that the Democratic race is highly competitive.”

Meanwhile, the Clinton camp was ecstatic.

“The voters of New York have said they want a dreamer and a doer. They want results,” said Labor Secretary Thomas E. Perez, a Buffalo native who has been campaigning for Clinton all around the country. “I’m very excited.”

Clinton seemed very excited, too, and very thankful.

“Today, you proved once again that there’s no place like home,” said Clinton, who moved to the state in 1999 to run for the Senate.

Smiling, she added: “This one’s personal.”

News staff reporter Jay Tokasz contributed to this report. email: jzremski@buffnews.com