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Candidates hope for home state advantage in New York

Ahead of Tuesday’s delegate-rich New York primary, Sen. Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton spent the day courting labor unions, while Donald Trump lashed out at GOP rules that he claims are robbing him of delegates. John Yang wraps up the day’s campaign news and Judy Woodruff talks to Karen DeWitt of New York State Public Radio and Beth Fouhy of MSNBC.

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  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    First, the latest from the presidential campaign.

    It is less than a week to go until voters in New York state have their say, and the candidates hit the hustings again today. A major East Coast job action was a main focus.

    SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (VT-I), Democratic Presidential Candidate: It's a question of workers standing up for justice.

  • JOHN YANG:

    For the Democratic hopefuls, it was a day to embrace labor, ahead of next week's New York primary.

  • PROTESTERS:

    Bernie! Bernie! Bernie!

  • JOHN YANG:

    Bernie Sanders joined striking Verizon workers in Brooklyn.

  • SEN. BERNIE SANDERS:

    Today, you are standing up, not just for justice for Verizon workers. You are standing up for millions of Americans who don't have a union.

    (CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

  • SEN. BERNIE SANDERS:

    You're telling corporate America they cannot have it all.

  • JOHN YANG:

    Hillary Clinton also slammed Verizon, saying in a statement: "The company wants to outsource more and more jobs. Verizon should do the right thing and return to negotiations."

    Clinton picked up the support of an electrical workers union in New York, while Sanders snagged the transit workers.

  • SEN. BERNIE SANDERS:

    Thank you so much for your support.

  • JOHN YANG:

    The Vermont senator also landed his first endorsement from a Senate colleague. Oregon Democrat Jeff Merkley announced his backing in a New York Times op-ed, and on MSNBC, he explained why he broke ranks with 40 Democratic senators backing Clinton.

    SEN. JEFF MERKLEY (D), Oregon: This really is all about the person who has the boldest, most fierce vision on the biggest issues facing America and the world.

  • JOHN YANG:

    Republican front-runner Donald Trump is stumping tonight in Pittsburgh. But, last night, the New York billionaire appeared in a CNN town hall, with wife Melania joining in.

  • ANDERSON COOPER, CNN:

    Melania, do you ever want to say to him, put the mobile device down, that, like, it's 2:00 a.m., and you're still tweeting?

    MELANIA TRUMP, Wife of Donald Trump: Anderson, if he would only listen. I did many times.

    (LAUGHTER)

  • MELANIA TRUMP:

    And I just say, OK, do whatever you want. He's an adult. He knows the consequences. And…

    (LAUGHTER)

  • JOHN YANG:

    Trump also lashed out again at party rules that he says are robbing him of delegates. But Republican Party chairman Reince Priebus fired back on Twitter, defending the process and saying: "It's the responsibility of they campaigns to understand it. Complaints now? Give us all a break."

    Trump's rivals, John Kasich and Ted Cruz, campaigned in Maryland and Pennsylvania this afternoon.

    SEN. TED CRUZ (R-TX), Republican Presidential Candidate: I am here today with a word of hope and encouragement. All across Pennsylvania, all across the this country, people are waking up, and help is on the way!

    (CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

  • SEN. TED CRUZ:

    We're going to seed manufacturing jobs coming back to Pennsylvania, the backbone of the middle class.

  • JOHN YANG:

    Cruz has his own CNN town hall tonight.

    For the "PBS NewsHour," I'm John Yang.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    Let's turn now to the next primary on the calendar.

    On Tuesday, voters in the state of New York will head to the polls.

    Joining us to talk about the politics of the Empire State, Beth Fouhy, a senior editor at MSNBC.com. She joins us from New York City. And from Albany, Karen DeWitt, capital bureau chief for New York state Public Radio.

    And we welcome both of you.

    So, let's start with the Republicans.

    Beth, Fouhy to you, first. Break it down a little bit for us. Which voters are eligible to vote in the Republican primary? How are delegates selected in New York?

  • BETH FOUHY, MSNBC:

    Well, the only people who can vote in the Republican primary, Judy, are Republicans. This is a closed primary state, and that presents challenges and opportunities to both side.

    In terms of just the overall look at the Republican field, Donald Trump is just really dominating here. He's, of course, from New York. He's the big alpha dog of New York, and that that status basically is propelling him throughout the state.

    Most of the polling that we have seen here, the public polling, shows him at or above 50 percent. He's beating Senator Cruz and John Kasich by as much as 30 points in all this polling. So, right now, the big mystery is whether he can actually top 50 percent, Trump, get all the statewide unpledged delegates, and get 50 percent in those congressional districts, where he could really sweep up a whole lot delegates.

    There's a possibility, Judy, that he could actually get every single one of the 95 delegates in the state.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    And, as you said, would have to win over 50 percent of the vote in order to do that.

    Karen DeWitt, to you. What about — do you agree with the way Beth has laid it out? And is Trump stronger in one part of the state or another?

  • KAREN DEWITT, New York State Public Radio:

    Well, yes, Trump doesn't really have a really good get-out-the-vote effort or ground game, but sure here is drawing people to the rallies. And they have been huge, to use his word. A lot of people have been coming to them. He's been all over the state.

    It's been very exciting, I think, for New York Republicans, as well as Democrats. I was talking to the New York state Republican Party chair, Ed Cox, and he today, this is New York's New Hampshire. We get to meet these people firsthand. It is really energizing everybody.

    And, yes, I think Trump is speaking to especially Upstate New York. There is a lot of discontent about the economy. The Upstate economy has been doing terribly for decades. And a lot of people are upset. The manufacturing jobs aren't here anymore. He's attracting mainly the white, working middle-class voters who used to have good jobs, may not have them, are worried about their children having to leave the state.

    And he does really seem to be resonating a lot more than Kasich and Cruz, although the way that the delegates are selected, Kasich and Cruz could win some delegates, because it's congressional district by congressional district, the way the race goes.

    So they could pick up some delegates, and that's what they're hoping to do. They know — probably know at this point they can't win.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    So, Beth, when Karen says Trump doesn't have much of a ground-level organization, does that mean organization doesn't matter in New York?

  • BETH FOUHY:

    Well, he hasn't had much of an organization anywhere.

    I mean, this really is one of these candidacies that, in the places that he's won, has been primarily the force of his personality, the force of his celebrity, this real power and connection that he has with certain types of voters in different states.

    New York is even — is all of that and more. I mean, New York is his home state, although it has changed quite a lot since he was growing up here. For example, he grow up in Queens, Judy. Queens is now probably the most ethnically diverse place in the entire United States. Flushing, New York, more languages spoken there than any other place in the United States and has more people who are of an immigrant background than any other place.

    All the things that Trump talks about, the sort of pushing away illegal immigrants, concern about the borders, when he comes back to his home borough of Queens, he's seeing American diversity in all of its glory. And that may be a little bit troubling to him, because it's not quite the same place that he grew up in.

    Still, he's very, very popular almost everywhere in New York, and can possibly break through and get that 50 percent in all the congressional districts and sweep the delegates.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    Fascinating.

    Just quickly, Karen, so what appeal is there for, say, a Ted Cruz to make in New York, or a John Kasich, when Trump seems to have the advantage?

  • KAREN DEWITT:

    Well, I think Cruz did make a real mistake back in Iowa when he discredited New York City values. People haven't forgotten that.

    New York Republicans are not that conservative. They're pretty moderate. So I think Cruz has a real challenge here. John Kasich seems to be going for more of the electeds. He met with the Senate Republicans, trying to convince them to maybe tell their friends to vote for him. He's trying to go the more moderate route. He's held a lot of town hall meetings, which he seems to excel in. So, they are trying chip away in particular congressional districts.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    Karen, staying with you quickly, turning to the Democrats, who can vote in the Democratic primary? And does organization matter for the Democrats?

  • KAREN DEWITT:

    Yes, it absolutely does.

    Of course, it is closed just to Democrats. But you have Hillary Clinton, who has all the established elected officials, from Governor Cuomo, all the way down to local county legislators, to Bernie Sanders, who has the younger folks who are very motivated to vote, but the question is, will they really come out on Election Day? Did they register early enough?

    Some of them may have to do absentee ballot. A lot of them are millennials, and you would have to use snail mail to do an absentee ballot, which they are not used to doing. So, can Sanders get as many voters out as Hillary Clinton likely can with her support from the major elected officials, particularly in New York City, and particularly with her support from the major party unions that are supporting her and will help with the get-out-the-vote effort?

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    That's right. There is such a thing as snail mail, still.

    So, Beth, how do you look at the Clinton-Sanders competition?

  • BETH FOUHY:

    Well, it's a little bit closer than the field on the Republican side, Judy, but so far, Clinton is quite a ways ahead of Bernie Sanders, and for many, many reasons.

    Let's not forget, she was a senator from New York for eight years. She was elected in 2000, reelected in 2006. She knows how to run in New York. She knows where to go. She knows the communities she needs to be speaking to. Plus, she was a pretty well-regarded senator. She paid as much attention to the Upstate issues as she did to the folks in the city.

    She was really, really responsive around 9/11 and the needs of the first-responders there, but also Upstate dairy farms and apple farms and those big cities up there that, as Karen put it, have been struggling, like the areas around Syracuse, Rochester, that kind of thing.

    So, Bernie Sanders, even though he's got his thick Brooklyn accent, hasn't lived in the state for a long time and is not super well-known. He will get those college students out if they're registered and can vote, eligible to vote here as Democrats. He's got a big really tonight in Washington Square Park in Manhattan, where tons and tons of young people are expected to attend.

    He's been going to a lot of college towns in New York, and there are plenty of them in this state. So he will get a lot of enthusiasm, that kind of enthusiasm that we have seen in other states. But he starts really well behind her because of her experience and her connections here in New York.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    So, Karen, there's no Brooklyn advantage or no home state advantage for Bernie Sanders?

  • KAREN DEWITT:

    Well, I will say one thing that Sanders is trying to capitalize on is the so-called fractivists.

    These are the anti-fracking activities who were successful in convincing Governor Cuomo to ban fracking in New York. It's the only state where it's illegal. And he's hoping that those voters will come out. They gave Cuomo a primary challenge, supported Cuomo's primary challenger back in 2014.

    And his challenger, who, by the way, was a Vermont transplant, Zephyr Teachout, actually won a number of Upstate counties. So, Bernie Sanders this week said he's for a nationwide ban on fracking. He mentions it in his speeches here, and he's really trying to play that up, hoping he can get those progressives out, a small group, but very motivated voters.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    Well, it is a lot of delegates at stake, and we know the candidates are working the state hard. And we thank both of you for giving us this insight.

    Beth Fouhy and Karen DeWitt, thank you both.

  • BETH FOUHY:

    Thanks, Judy.

  • KAREN DEWITT:

    Thank you.

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