New York (AFP) - White House frontrunners Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton stormed through New York on a campaign blitz Sunday as Bernie Sanders defied his lagging in the polls to command a crowd of thousands.
The overwhelmingly Democratic state votes Tuesday in its most decisive presidential primary in decades with Trump determined to fend off the prospect of a contested nomination for the Republican party and Sanders pinning Clinton into a tighter race than few ever imagined.
Trump, the Manhattan billionaire, needs to win the majority of the 95 Republican delegates up for grabs in the primary to increase his chances of clinching the party nomination before the July convention.
The 247 Democratic delegates in New York, plus 44 super-delegates, are likely to be won mostly by Clinton, giving the former secretary of state and ex-New York senator an unassailable lead over Sanders.
While nationwide polls edge Clinton just 47-46 percent over her self-described democratic socialist rival, in New York she leads a whopping 53.5-41 percent, based on a RealClearPolitics poll average.
"I need you to come out and everybody you know to come out on Tuesday," Clinton told a cheering block party in Brooklyn's historically African-American neighborhood of Bedford-Stuyvesant.
She referenced her eight years as New York senator from 2001 to 2009 and gave a short version of her stump speech, highlighting calls for gun control and building on the legacy of Barack Obama.
"Vote in this primary, stay with me. Whoever they (the Republicans) nominate, I look forward to taking whoever it is on," she said to cheers and applause from several hundred people.
- Polls so good -
Jetting in from Los Angeles, where she attended a lavish fundraiser hosted by Hollywood heartthrob George Clooney, the former first lady whizzed through other campaign stops in Manhattan, Queens, and the Bronx.
Trump, 69, made appearances on Staten Island, New York's most isolated borough, before heading off to tour his former boarding school and to lead a rally in Poughkeepsie in the Hudson Valley.
"The polls are so good," said the businessman, asked why he had not campaigned more in New York City, where his name has been synonymous with money-making and real estate for decades.
He leads the national Republican polls with 40 percent. Texas Senator Ted Cruz is at 30 percent and Ohio Governor John Kasich has 21 percent, according to a RealClearPolitics.
In New York, Trump commands a thumping home state lead at 52 percent, with Kasich and Cruz languishing at 22 and 17.8 percent respectively, alarming the Republican establishment opposed to his divisive, controversial campaign that has insulted women, Muslims and Mexicans.
On Saturday, Cruz picked up more delegates in his determination to chip away at Trump's lead, winning all 14 up for grabs at the Republican state convention in Wyoming.
The right-wing evangelical now has 553 delegates against 758 for Trump, according to CNN. A candidate needs 1,237 delegates to win the Republican presidential nomination.
Trump blasts the delegate nominating process as rigged.
- Impossible dream -
Sanders, fresh from a brief meeting with Pope Francis at the Vatican, addressed a rally in Brooklyn, where he was born before America entered World War II, estimating the crowd at 20,000 people.
"Let's have a record breaking turnout on Tuesday. New York State help lead this country into the political revolution," he said.
But Sanders sounded a note of caution ahead of an election, which if Clinton wins comfortably, will likely make it impossible for Sanders to have any realistic chance of catching up with her delegate lead.
"If anybody here thinks 'oh we're going to elect Bernie he'll do it all', you are mistaken," he said in reference to the enormity of the sweeping reforms he advocates.
"No president alone can do what has to be done. And what has to be done is that millions of people have got to stand up and demand that we have a government that represents all of us, not the one percent."
Sanders has galvanized millions with his call for universal health care, free public college and campaign finance reform exhorting youth voters and working people to get more involved in politics.
The crowd, gathered under the hot sun in Prospect Park, hoped that the 74-year-old can still pull a surprise win out of the bag on Tuesday.
"Some people think his dreams are impossible, but it just the beginning," said Kevin Clay, a 64-year-old retired electrician.
"Hillary is for Hillary; Bernie is for me, you, her and everybody."