Mail this story to a friend.          
NYSNYS NEWS: New York ready for its presidential campaign closeup as Clinton and Trump strengthen claims on party nominations.
Clinton support: Singer Katy Perry took to Instagram after performing at a Clinton fundraiser in NYC Wednesday.

NYSNYS NEWS: New York ready for its presidential campaign closeup as Clinton and Trump strengthen claims on party nominations.

By Kyle Hughes

ALBANY, N.Y. (March 3) — With Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump seemingly on track to clinch their party nominations, New York is ready for its presidential campaign closeup.

“I will be campaigning in New York,” Trump said at a rally in Radford, VA this week. “I love New York, OK? And I will be campaigning in New York and if I win New York it’s over, you understand, because we pick up so many delegates.”

“We’ve got work to do my friends, but not to make America great again,” Clinton said at a rally in New York City Wednesday. “America never stopped being great. We have to make America whole.”

Clinton returned to her adopted home state for a rally with Gov. Andrew Cuomo followed by a big fundraiser at Radio City Music Hall featuring Elton John, Katy Perry, Jamie Foxx and Andra Day. Perry posted a photo on her Instagram account showing her wearing a “HILLARY CLINTON IS A BADASS” t-shirt. Sir Elton told the crowd Clinton “is the only hope you have.”

Thursday, Clinton drew the water contamination scare in Hoosick Falls into the presidential contest, posting a statement on Twitter about the PFOA contamination there and declaring, “Kids come before corporations. Companies shouldn't get special loopholes that endanger families.”

New York holds its presidential primary on April 19 and depending on the next few weeks, the outcome may be either an after-thought or an important milestone in the march to the White House.

“It’s too early to know,” Siena College pollster Steve Greenberg said Thursday. The nomination on “either side could theoretically on April 19 be wide open or still open and therefore New York matters a lot … but it theoretically could be decided before April 19.”

Between now and April 19, Greenberg said primaries will be held in other big states, including Michigan, Florida, Illinois, Ohio and North Carolina. The richest delegate contest of all occurs June 9 in California, with 172 Republican and 546 Democratic delegates.

Cuomo lit into Trump on Monday at a speech at the meeting of the New York State Democratic Committee in Westchester, accusing Republicans of “fanning the flames of that fear” of immigrants, homosexuals and abortion rights. He mocked Trump’s suggestion to fortify the U.S. Mexico border against illegal immigration.

“The solution is simple: Make a list with all the immigrants, we go down the list and kick them all out of the country,” he said. “And then we build a big wall, a big wall, and that will be the answer. I mean a big wall — 10 foot high, it got 10 foot higher this weekend … It’s gonna be on time and on budget like a China wall.”

“You’re going to make America great again? You don’t understand what made America great in the first place and what makes America great today,” Cuomo said.

While Clinton appears to be poised to dominate Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders in the final weeks of the primary season, Trump is facing a concerted efforts by some party leaders to stop him despite a groundswell of grassroots support since the start of the year. There is also talk of an anybody-but-Trump power play at the convention to give the nomination to Texas Sen. Ted Cruz or Florida Sen. Marco Rubio.

Either move could make a New York victory important for Trump, both in the primary and general election.

In New York, a total of 95 Republican delegates are at stake. On the Democratic side, 291 delegates are in play on April 19, 247 pledged and 44 un-pledged so-called “super delegates” such as Cuomo and other leaders who can support for whomever they please. Each party has its own arcane nominating rules, with 1,237 of 2,472 delegate votes needed to win on the Republican side. For Democrats, the comparable numbers are 2,383 out of 4,765 delegate votes.

In his Virginia speech, Trump was referring to the fact no Republican presidential candidate has won New York since Ronald Reagan in 1984. Some pundits predict Trump would do well here despite an overwhelming Democratic edge and polls showing him with a high disapproval rating. But he appears to be especially popular in western New York, where he has the backing of Carl Paladino, the 2010 GOP candidate for governor.

If New York is important for Trump in this election cycle, Trump could also be important for New York on April 19.

Senate Republicans are struggling to maintain their majority control, and are competing in a special election that day to pick a successor to former Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos (D-Nassau County), who was stripped of his seat after his conviction on corruption charges in December.

Trump supporters have flocked to the polls in other states to vote for him, with the GOP turnout up by as much as 50 percent in Tennessee and Virginia. A rising voter tide here would likely increase the GOP chances of holding onto the Skelos seat.

The special election in Long Island’s 9th Senate district pits Christopher McGrath, a personal injury lawyer from Garden City against Assemblyman Todd Kaminsky, a former federal prosecutor from Long Beach who is serving his first term in the Legislature.

“All the energy is on the Republican side,” McGrath campaign spokesman Scott Reif said Thursday. “If you look at the rest of the states that have already voted, it was record Republican turnout in every one. The on the Democratic side, it hasn’t been as good, it’s lagging.”