April 20, 2016 at 12:53 pm EDT | by Chris Johnson
‘Acela primary’ up next in contentious 2016 election
election 2016, gay news, Washington Blade

From left, presidential hopefuls Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Gov. John Kasich (R-Ohio), Donald Trump and Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas). (Washington Blade file photos by Michael Key)

After dominating wins for Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump in the New York primary, their competitors are looking to the upcoming “Acela primary” on Tuesday — which consists of Maryland, Delaware, Rhode Island, Connecticut and Pennsylvania — to dig themselves out of the hole of delegates, although the trajectory of the races seems unlikely to change.

The Acela primary, so named because of the train service connecting the states, will yield 409 delegates for Democrats and 172 for Republicans, the third greatest number of delegates on a single day this primary season after Super Tuesday and “Mini-Tuesday.”

After a 16-point loss for Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) in New York’s Democratic primary, he’ll need unexpected wins in the upcoming states, and by large margins, to overtake Clinton in securing the 2,383 delegates needed for the Democratic nomination.

On the Republican side, the loss by Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) in New York made it mathematically impossible for him to obtain the Republican nomination outright — a situation that was already the case for Ohio Gov. John Kasich. The remaining issue is whether Trump will win a total of 1,237 delegates to win the nomination on the first ballot, or if the GOP is headed toward an open convention.

Much attention will be on Pennsylvania, the largest state in Acela primary, which yields 71 delegates for Republicans and 181 delegates for Democrats.

Malcolm Lazin, executive director of the Philadelphia-based Equality Forum, said as a 501(c)(3) organization, his group doesn’t endorse candidates, but predicted the results in Pennsylvania would be similar to New York.

“Pennsylvania is the largest of next Tuesday’s Acela states,” Lazin said. “If, as is expected Secretary Clinton and Mr. Trump dominate those primaries, it will make a compelling case that Secretary Clinton is the Democratic presidential nominee and that Mr. Trump will come close after the California primary to the needed 1,237 votes for the Republican presidential nomination.”

In Maryland, where 105 delegates are up for grabs on the Democratic side, a Public Policy Polling poll published on Tuesday found Hillary Clinton looks headed for a resounding victory over Sanders. Among Democratic voters, Clinton leads Sanders 58-33. Much of that lead is the result of black voters in Maryland, which comprise 40 percent of the state’s Democratic primary electorate and support her 70-25.

“The only question in Maryland on the Democratic side is the margin,” said Dean Debnam, president of Public Policy Polling. “A closed primary state with a large black population is about as tailor made for Hillary Clinton as it could possibly be.”

On the Republican side in Maryland, where 38 delegates are up for grabs, Trump only had a plurality of support in the poll at 43 percent, but that’s higher than support for John Kasich and Ted Cruz, who are closely matched for second place at 29 percent and 24 percent respectively.

John Fluharty, a gay Kasich supporter and former head of the Delaware Republican Party, predicted Trump would claim all 16 delegates for Republicans in the First State. On the Democratic side, 27 delegates are in play.

“Both Trump and Kasich have set up shop in Delaware, and are working hard,” Fluharty said. “The only chance Kasich has to move from 2nd place to 1st place in Delaware is if Cruz/Trump split the vote in Sussex/Kent Counties.”

In Connecticut, where 121 delegates are up for grabs for Democrats and 28 for Republicans, the projected results are similar. A Qunnipiac poll found Clinton has a 51–42 percent lead over Sanders. Meanwhile, Trump had 48 percent support among likely Republicans compared to 28 percent for Kasich and 19 percent for Cruz.

The remaining state in the Acela primary, Rhode Island, yields 19 delegates for Republicans and 31 delegates for Democrats. The Washington Blade could not find recent polling in the state.

Gary Gates, a former research scholar with the Williams Institute at the University of California, Los Angeles, created a graphic illustrating that an estimated 420,000 LGBT people live in “Acela primary” states.

As the graphic shows, LGBT Democrats make up between 3.8 and 5.7 percent of the population, while LGBT Republicans make up between 1.5 and 2.7 percent. According to the polls, none of these percentages would be high enough to make a decision in the contests.

Chris Johnson is Chief Political & White House Reporter for the Washington Blade. Johnson is a member of the White House Correspondents' Association. Follow Chris

    • …or Julian Castro. That’s a real tough call.

      BTW, I noticed that yesterday Trump has started highlighting Bernie Sanders’ sexist claim of a few weeks ago that “Hillary is not qualified to be president.”

      Thanks, Bernie (Weaver and Devine, too) for all the demonizing rhetoric and lying campaign commercials against Hillary.

      And thanks for your on-again/off-again rehabbing of a White House glass ceiling for our daughters or nieces who dare to dream big.

      Are the Sanders guys anxious to join Ralph Nader on the egotists’ ash heap of progressive history?

      BTW, husker, Jennifer Rubin just suggested Ben Sasse could be a GOP savior of some sort. Any comment?

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