Continuing our POLITICO feature, where we dig into the latest polls and loop in other data streams to tell the story of the 2016 campaign.
New York may be the media capital of the world, but the airwaves are mostly quiet in next Tuesday’s GOP presidential primary — the first contested Republican primary in the state in 28 years.
John Kasich is the only candidate buying any broadcast-television advertising – and just $37,000 in Syracuse, Albany and New York. Kasich is also backed by two super PACs supporting his candidacy, for a total of about $593,000.
Ted Cruz’s ads – including radio spots that hit New York Mayor Bill de Blasio – have received outsized media attention. But Cruz is spending just $36,000 on cable television and radio in the state. The bulk of the pro-Cruz spending comes from Trusted Leadership PAC, which is spending $430,000 on cable TV and radio.
But Donald Trump, who holds a wide lead in public polls, is mostly missing-in-action on the New York airwaves. He’s spending only $67,000 leading up to the primary – entirely on radio ads, and almost all of it booked for the final four days of the campaign.
Trump may be sitting on his lead in New York, but he still could be leaving delegates on the table: A large-sample, automated poll first reported by POLITICO on Friday showed Trump below the 50-percent, winner-take-all threshold in a number of Upstate congressional districts, which would allow Kasich or Cruz to steal some delegates. (Most of Kasich’s and Cruz’s ads are focused on Upstate markets like Albany, Elmira, Utica and Watertown.)
Trump’s lack of advertising comes after a spendthrift campaign in Wisconsin, where he was outspent roughly 10-to-1 by his competitors and outside groups opposing his candidacy.
One big difference in New York, however: The handful of anti-Trump groups that bought big in Wisconsin and other states – like Club for Growth and Our Principles PAC – are sitting out New York, nor have they made reservations for the five Northeast and Mid-Atlantic states voting on April 26.
If the Republican primary in New York is mostly sleepy – due in large part to Trump’s commanding statewide lead – the Democratic race is hotly contested. Democrats account for nine of every 10 dollars spent on the state’s airwaves.
And, once again, Bernie Sanders is outspending Hillary Clinton: Sanders is set to spend nearly $7 million before next Tuesday, more than Clinton’s $3.7 million.
The massive spending comes as Sanders is attempting to close a double-digit deficit in public polls – a margin that threatens to make the gap between Clinton and Sanders in pledged delegates virtually insurmountable for the Vermont senator.
If Clinton is going to hold off Sanders in New York, the votes are going to come from New York City and the surrounding suburbs.
A WNBC-TV/Wall Street Journal/Marist poll conducted this week showed Clinton leading Sanders in the city and suburbs, 60 percent to 36 percent.
Compare that to the results upstate, where the race is deadlocked: Sanders at 50 percent, Clinton at 49 percent.
Overall, the poll gives Clinton a 17-point lead, with nearly seven-in-10 voters coming from the city and the suburbs. (In the 2008 primary, the city, Long Island and the Lower Hudson Valley accounted for nearly three-quarters of the vote, according to exit-poll results.)
Upstate voters account for 31 percent of the Democratic primary electorate, per the Marist poll. But they make up more than 61 percent of Marist’s GOP electorate – a reflection of how different the Republican map is next Tuesday.
Rep. José Serrano’s congressional district, which comprises about half of The Bronx and is majority-Hispanic, is the nation’s most Democratic district. President Barack Obama won an astounding 97 percent of the vote here in 2012.
There were only 285 ballots in the 2012 GOP presidential primary in Serrano’s district, and just over 13,000 Republicans are active on the voter rolls there. But for the purposes of delegate allocation, it counts just as much as the state’s most Republican district: the Western New York seat held by Rep. Chris Collins, who has endorsed Trump. Collins’ district has more than 177,000 active registered voters.
There are 14 delegates at stake at the statewide level next Tuesday – and Trump can win them all if he captures a majority of the vote, as pre-election polls indicate. But the bulk of delegates – 81 – are awarded by congressional district.
If one candidate – most likely Trump – wins the majority of the vote in one of New York’s 27 congressional districts, he wins all three delegates for that district. If no candidate wins a majority, the first-place finisher gets two delegates, and the second-place candidate gets one.
But this system means that a vote in Serrano’s district, where only a few hundred Republicans will participate next Tuesday, will be worth many times more than a vote in Collins’ district.
Notably, both Cruz and Kasich visited The Bronx before the primary. Cruz toured the borough – though mostly in the neighboring 14th District. Kasich visited one of the district’s best-known landmarks: the historically Italian neighborhood of Belmont and the Arthur Avenue food market.
Thursday night’s televised Democratic debate at the Brooklyn Navy Yard was a barn-burner, with Clinton and Sanders trading attacks and veiled insults for more than two hours. But few voters were tuning in.
According to overnight ratings released Friday, about 5.6 million viewers across the country watched the debate: 5.4 million nationwide on CNN, and 171,000 on NY1, a local cable-news station available on Time Warner Cable systems.
For both candidates looking to make their final pitches to Democrats before Tuesday’s primary, they found a limited audience.