Hillary Clinton won the big, blue state of New York much the way she won the small, red state of South Carolina: by running a locally tailored campaign that nonetheless treated the state as a stage for the issues and constituencies that will matter throughout the primaries, and into November. If South Carolina marked the end of the beginning of the Democratic primary race, as Clinton’s 86-14 win with black voters showed the trouble Sanders would have with that crucial if internally diverse voting bloc, New York marked the beginning of the end, and for some of the same reasons.
Clinton ran as a New Yorker, surrounding herself with local elected officials, harkening back to the (first) Clinton administration (which was staffed by Mayor Bill de Blasio and Governor Andrew Cuomo, both of whom introduced her at her Sheraton victory party), boring into issues of guns and housing and mass transit, and reminding voters at every stop that she fought for the Zadroga Act, which brought funding for 9/11 rescue workers made ill by their jobs there. “You need a president who knows where Co-op City is!” she told the mostly black and Latino crowd at that enormous housing development in the Bronx last week. Co-op City also happens to be the largest polling place in the country; Clinton won it 3-to-1.
Sanders had pulled an estimated 18,000 to an outdoor festival in the South Bronx in early April; Clinton filled the local community center with about 1,000. But as Dewayne Phillips told me there, that night: “Supporters of Bernie love rallies. Supporters of Hillary love to vote.” Indeed, the Bronx went 70-30 for Clinton. (Full disclosure: My daughter was the campaign’s Bronx organizer).
Once again, Clinton won a huge majority of African Americans—not quite at South Carolina levels, but a resounding 75-25. She won 63 percent of women—and 79 percent of black women. She won 63 percent of Latinos. The only demographic group Sanders carried was white men, along with young voters (so far, I can’t find demographic data for young voters of color.)
I saw the size and shape of Clinton’s victory not only at her rally in Co-op City but also at Medgar Evers College in Brooklyn earlier this month, at an intimate event (by Sanders campaign standards) attended mostly by black and Latina women. The progressive Public Advocate Tish James hailed Clinton’s fight against guns, while first lady Chirlane McCray talked of her work going back to the Children’s Defense Fund. But the stars of the event were two local women: Gwen Carr, the mother of Eric Garner, who was killed by the New York Police Department for selling loose cigarettes; and Nicole Bell, the fiancée of Sean Bell, killed by the NYPD on the morning of their wedding. The support of women like Carr and Bell buoyed Clinton, which I saw in South Carolina, too, where she was first joined by the so-called “Mothers of the Movement.” Carr joked that Clinton “caught daggers in her teeth and threw them back” at the Benghazi committee hearing last October; Carr and the other mothers were just as fierce in their advocacy for Clinton, all around New York City.