The recent Democratic and Republican primary elections in New York have restored the US presidential campaign to its original status. The primary results guaranteed Hillary Clinton’s anointment as the Democratic Party candidate and showed that Donald Trump will remain leader of the Republican pack. Both of these had come under question in the past few weeks thanks to Bernie Sanders defeating Ms Clinton in eight of the nine primaries and Mr Trump proving to be not as unassailable as once thought.
Ms Clinton’s victory is the more decisive of the two. She has shown that in states whose demography matches the larger country, she — and not Sanders — is the person who can attract Democratic voters. And her lead in elected rather than appointed delegates, once a problem for her, is now large enough to close any challenge by Mr Sanders on the grounds of legitimacy.
This does not mean Ms Clinton can afford to be complacent: Mr Sanders was able to reduce a once-mammoth lead in New York by two-thirds in only six weeks. The Republican story is more complicated because Mr Trump remains despised by his own party leadership. He continues to struggle to win over the two-thirds who can’t stand him. The New York primary has guaranteed he will be the dominant candidate in terms of delegates when the party convention meets. Mr Trump remains the most popular outsider of his party, but an outsider nonetheless.
The surprising run of Mr Sanders and Mr Trump, even if the former’s campaign is now all but over, continue to highlight the disgruntlement among a white working class at the country’s leadership. The Republicans have come out the worse in all this, revealing deep fissures in their coalition of supporters.
The Democrats are also damaged, but the difference between Ms Clinton and Mr Sanders is one of fraternal twins. The one within the Republicans is akin to that between different species – Mr Trump advocates Leftwing economics and nativist sentiments, neither of which are conservative. Ms Clinton, always seen as a favourite, should now begin the process of redefining herself as a president whose main selling point is that she is the best candidate, most suited to unite a deeply divided America. Given Mr Trump’s antics, this should not be too difficult a task.