NEW YORK – Donald Trump will win the New York Republican primary, CNN projects, notching a major victory as he seeks to reboot and reorganize his campaign.
The big question for Trump going forward is whether his margin of victory will be high enough to clinch most of New York’s 95 delegates, which would make a big difference in his effort to avert a contested convention later in the summer. Trump will have to win more than 50% statewide and in each of New York’s 27 congressional districts to take that prize.
Meanwhile, the Democratic contest between Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders could not immediately be called when polls closed at 9 p.m. ET.
Heading into Tuesday, Trump and Clinton found themselves in a similar position: hoping to gain validation and momentum after a string of disappointments.
A sweeping win here is critical for Trump. If his rival, Ted Cruz, peels away a significant number of delegates, it will become that much more difficult for Trump to outright clinch the GOP nomination ahead of this summer's Republican convention.
For Clinton, the challenge has more to do with optics: putting an end to Sanders' winning streak in the West and undermining his narrative that he's the Democrat with the most momentum.
Over the past few weeks, Trump has come face-to-face with the Cruz campaign's strong command of the complicated delegate allocation rules. The GOP front-runner has expressed frustration as he's watched Cruz walk away with victories and grow his delegate pile -- a sentiment that boiled over after the Texas senator swept the Colorado Republican convention earlier this month.
Trump is becoming increasingly vocal in his criticism of the Republican National Committee and the party's nominating process, calling the latter "crooked" and "corrupt."
Fearing that the magic number of 1,237 delegates was becoming increasingly elusive, Trump has also sanctioned changes within his operations. Perhaps most notably, he announced the hire of veteran Republican strategist Paul Manafort to oversee the campaign's delegate gathering efforts. Meanwhile, Trump's national field director, Stuart Jolly, resigned Monday amid a staff shakeup that put Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker's former campaign manager in charge of the campaign's ground operations.
Three candidates with New York ties
On the Democratic side, 247 delegates are up for grabs on Tuesday.
Although Clinton continues to have a sizable lead in delegates, the New York race comes after Sanders has won eight of the last nine Democratic contests -- a reality that the Vermont senator has repeatedly touted on the campaign trail.
"I think the Clinton campaign and the secretary are getting a little bit nervous," Sanders told CNN after last week's particularly combative Democratic debate in Brooklyn.
Tuesday's contests are particularly significant for three of the candidates who have roots in New York.
Trump is a Queens native and Manhattanite whose famous last name is featured on real estate properties around the city. For Clinton, the current juncture in the race marks something of a homecoming: she was a New York senator for eight years, owns a home in Chappaqua and her campaign headquarters is in Brooklyn. And while Sanders has represented Vermont on Capitol Hill for decades, he was born and raised in Brooklyn and has spoken fondly about his upbringing in the borough.
Clinton in particular appeared to delight in campaigning in New York City's five boroughs in recent days. She kept a packed schedule that included riding the subway, drinking bubble tea and sampling dumplings in Brooklyn -- all part of an effort to tour the city and mingle with its residents in relatively casual settings.
'New Hampshire moment'
Trump and Clinton spent Tuesday morning taking care of their first order of business: voting.
Trump visited his polling station, the Central Synagogue three blocks east of Trump Tower, where he cast a ballot for himself for the first time.
"It's a proud moment. It's a great moment. And who would've thought? It's just an honor," he told reporters.
With so much at stake for the two front-runners, Empire State voters on were in the unusual position -- for the first time in decades -- of playing a crucial role in the presidential nomination process.
Local political figures in both parties are relishing the state's rare moment in the spotlight of a presidential election.
"It's been an unusual circumstance where New York is one of the deciding factors in the Democratic race, so that's exciting," said Democratic Queens Borough President Melinda Katz.
New York State Republican Party Chairman Ed Cox referred to the contests here as his state's "New Hampshire moment" -- a reference to the New England state's outsized role in the presidential primary.
"This is what the New York state party needs. We need this kind of excitement," Cox said. "We are indeed having our decisive moment in selecting the next president of the United States."