Comeback kids in New York

The results in the New York presidential primaries were not decisive in either party, but they certainly were course corrections after brief stalls in the dashes of Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton toward their party nominations.

Their losses in the Wisconsin primary, particularly Sen. Bernie Sanders' whipping of Ms. Clinton in eight of the previous nine state primaries and caucuses, had raised warning flags. But Mr. Trump's 60.4 percent romp over Sen. Ted Cruz (14.5 percent) and Ohio Gov. John Kasich (25.1 percent) in the Empire State, and Ms. Clinton's 58 percent drubbing of Mr. Sanders (42 percent), put both frontrunners back on track.


Nor did the outcomes resolve the pursuit of convention delegate majorities in either party. But they did enhance the prospect of Ms. Clinton going over the top before the month of April is out, while likely still leaving Mr. Trump short of the 1,237 delegates (under current rules) to avoid a second or later ballot at the GOP convention.

That uncertainty appears to have brought a strategic and stylistic change in the Trump campaign, with the infusion of veteran Republican establishment political advisers and the candidate's own persona on the stump.


The staff moves are bringing more professionalism to a previously amateur leadership of Trump cronies. And on primary night Mr. Trump himself brought a notably more benign attitude toward his chief remaining opponent. The man previously called "Lyin' Ted" by Mr. Trump was addressed as "Senator Cruz" in pointing to the New York results, in which the Texan trailed both Messrs. Trump and Kasich.

"We don't have much of race anymore based on what I see on television," Mr. Trump told his victory rally in what was for him a subdued response. "Senator Cruz is just about mathematically eliminated," he said. "We're really, really rocking."

Preliminary calculations on "delegates won" gave Mr. Trump at least 89 of the 95 Republican slots at stake, none to Mr. Cruz and three to Mr. Kasich, who clings to a longshot hope of a second or later convention ballot, and what is left of the party establishment swinging to him as marginally more moderate than Messrs. Trump or Cruz.

Mr. Kasich, trailing even the withdrawn Sen. Marco Rubio in the delegate count, continues to quote polls indicating he would be the only Republican able to defeat Ms. Clinton in the general election. He argued before the New York voting that the convention delegates "are going to look and say, 'If we nominate someone who's going to get crushed, we lose the Supreme Court, we lose the United States Senate, we lose the majorities in the statehouses; it'll be a wipeout.'"

On the Democratic side, Ms. Clinton's strong New York victory was a confidence builder in a race in which she was heavily favored, but one that Mr. Sanders, as a native of the state, had predicted he would score an upset. He vowed to remain in the race through the convention, saying "we think we will do well" next week in Pennsylvania,Connecticut, Rhode Island, Delaware and Maryland. "We think we have a message that is resonating," he said.

Ms. Clinton, while saying "victory is in sight," reached out to the Sanders supporters, observing: "I believe that there is much more that unites us than divides us." Although polls raise questions about her likeability and trustworthiness, there is a no-stop-Hillary effort in Democratic ranks comparable to stop-Trump campaign that has driven the Republican competition in recent weeks.

It will be interesting to hear now whether the harsh personal turn in the dialogue between Ms. Clinton and Mr. Sanders during the New Yorkprimary, in which each questioned the other's qualifications for the presidency and then backed off, will be toned down.

With Ms. Clinton still holding the hole card of a preponderance of automatic Democratic super-delegates for her, it's generally anticipated there will be a relatively harmonious first-ballot Clinton nomination in Philadelphia in late July, with Mr. Sanders addressing the convention with a unity message while urging his political revolution for the future.


In such a scenario, the Democrats as a party would have an ideal opportunity to demonstrate their own maturity and responsibility compared to the Republican political carnival that has been unveiled throughout the 2016 primary season.

Jules Witcover is a syndicated columnist and former long-time writer for The Baltimore Sun. His latest book is "The American Vice Presidency: From Irrelevance to Power" (Smithsonian Books). His email is