Bruised in Wisconsin, Trump, Clinton look to friendlier New York

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Washington (AFP)

Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton looked Wednesday to bounce back from unsettling presidential primary losses in Wisconsin, setting their sights on the next White House contests on friendlier ground -- their home state of New York.

The Republican and Democratic frontrunners were trounced Tuesday night in the Badger State, giving their respective rivals -- Ted Cruz and Bernie Sanders -- a boost in morale and delegates.

Trump's defeat, in particular, makes his ascent to the Republican nomination steeper, further raising the likelihood of a contested convention in July that could throw the party's nod to someone more to the liking of the establishment.

Usually at no loss for words, the real estate mogul left it to his campaign to blame his poor showing in Wisconsin on an anti-Trump movement that it said spent "countless millions on false advertising" to stop him.

"Ted Cruz is worse than a puppet -- he is a Trojan horse, being used by the party bosses attempt to steal the nomination from Mr Trump," his campaign said in a statement.

Cruz, an ultra-conservative senator from Texas, took the race with 48.3 percent of the vote, to 35 percent for Trump. Ohio Governor John Kasich finished at 14 percent.

- 'Turning point' -

"Tonight is a turning point. It is a rallying cry," Cruz told cheering supporters in Milwaukee after he received a hug from Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker, one of several former 2016 presidential candidates to have endorsed him.

"We have a choice, a real choice," he said.

Trump's loss followed a brutal week on the campaign trail, in which he alienated women by saying those who have abortions should be punished -- and then retracting the statement.

He also drew fire for comments calling NATO obsolete, encouraging Japan and South Korea to develop nuclear weapons, and a plan to make Mexico pay for a border wall by holding hostage the money its citizens send home from the US.

But Trump remains the undisputed Republican frontrunner with 743 delegates to 510 for Cruz and 145 for Kasich after Tuesday night, according to a CNN estimate. The first to get to 1,237 wins the nomination.

Trump needs to win those delegates before the Republican convention in Cleveland in July. Otherwise, he faces a fight in the second or third round of balloting when pledged delegates are free to choose a candidate for themselves.

"It's not impossible for Trump to still get there, but the likelihood is that Trump will be a few dozen delegates short of a majority," said veteran election analyst Larry Sabato of the University of Virginia.

Clinton also emerged from Wisconsin with her formidable delegate lead intact -- 1,778 to 1,097 for Sanders. To win the Democratic nomination, 2,383 delegates are needed.

And the White House race now turns to friendlier territory for both Trump and Clinton -- New York and Pennsylvania, the next states on the primary calendar.

Polls give Trump more than a 30-point lead over Kasich and Cruz in his home state of New York, which votes April 19. In Pennsylvania, which votes a week later, he leads by about 13 percentage points, according to a Real Clear Politics poll average.

Clinton, a former senator from New York, has more than a 10-point lead over Sanders in both her adopted home state and Pennsylvania.

The candidates were losing no time, with Trump holding a rally in Bethpage, on Long Island, later in the day while Cruz was scheduled to make a campaign appearance with supporters at a restaurant in the Bronx.

- Clinton pounces on Sanders -

Clinton, meanwhile, pounced on an interview Sanders gave to the New York Daily News editorial board in which he vowed to break up big banks like JPMorgan Chase but was unable to explain how he would do it or what the consequences might be.

"I think he hadn't done his homework and he had been talking for more than a year about doing things that he obviously hadn't studied or understood and that does raise a lot of questions," Clinton said.

Sanders, who has won six of the last seven primaries, has won an enthusiastic following among young voters and in states with white working class populations that have been hard hit by the loss of manufacturing jobs and the 2008 financial crisis.

But it was unclear how his anti-Wall Street, anti-corporate message will fare in New York, a more diverse state whose economy is anchored by the financial industry.

"If you're saying that we're going to break up the banks, will it have a negative consequence on some people? I suspect that it will. Will it have a positive impact on the economy in general? Yes, I think it will," Sanders said in the Daily News interview.