Get ready for real show in New York

Sanders: Clinton nervous about losing New York primary
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    Sanders: Clinton nervous about losing New York primary

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Sanders: Clinton nervous about losing New York primary 04:58

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  • Democratic and Republican Party primaries take place in New York on April 19
  • SE Cupp: Get your popcorn out, because the real show is about to begin

SE Cupp is the author of "Losing Our Religion: The Liberal Media's Attack on Christianity," co-author of "Why You're Wrong About the Right" and a columnist at the New York Daily News. The opinions expressed in this commentary are hers.

(CNN)As the campaigns pack up their cheesehead hats and quit the Badger State, all eyes are now on the Big Apple and the Empire State, where the stakes for both the Democrats and the Republicans could not be higher.

Pshaw, you say. A non-swing state that's voted Democrat in all but two elections since 1976, a game-changer for either party? Maybe.
    S.E. Cupp-Profile-Image
    There's the math, for starters. In both races, where delegate counts are tight, the Republicans' 95 delegates in New York and the Democrats 291 could be consequential in keeping Donald Trump from clinching the nomination before the convention and Hillary Clinton from boxing Bernie Sanders out.
    But, as a former New Yorker who went to college upstate and lived in New York City for 13 years, I can tell you, there's so much more going on here, in a state where politics is tough and the personalities are tougher.
    On the Republican side, Donald Trump steamrolls into his hometown with a clear advantage. According to the latest Quinnipiac Poll, he's leading Ted Cruz 56% to 20%. But it's unclear where that support is coming from.
    He's likely doing well in the rural and blue collar Republican counties upstate where manufacturing has diminished and unemployment is high, and should pull plenty of votes from those western and northern counties. But New York City's 8.5 million people cannot be overlooked, and his relationship with "the city," as we call it, is much more complicated.
    You'd think that a guy whose ubiquitous name is stamped on everything from hotels to golf courses, skating rinks to skyscrapers would be a beloved prodigal son, returning home a front-runner presidential candidate to the open arms of a proud hometown. But to many New Yorkers, he's more like the crazy uncle crashing Thanksgiving dinner.
    The liberal media has a long and tumultuous relationship with the provocative deal-maker who made headlines for his controversial development plans and his even-more controversial personal life.
    Today, he's much more of an outsider. A recent New York Times piece highlights his "deep roots but little influence" in his hometown, noting his "modest" New York real estate holdings, his little use for Wall Street (and it for him), and the apparent reluctance of major banks and contractors to work with him.
    In a city where liberalism is rote, Republicans exotic, it's no surprise most elites there find Trump's brand of carnival barking uncivilized and uncultured. Vanity Fair seemed surprised to have found any support for Donald Trump in New York at all, writing of its discovery, "there exists a strain of New Yorker who -- gasp! -- actually admires the man. And they're not tourists! They're real New Yorkers!"
    To be sure, there are probably even fewer Ted Cruz fans in New York City. And the number of Republicans registered to vote in the city is only around a fifth the number in the rest of the state. But if the anti-Trump sentiment in New York City is strong enough, it could dent his big numbers upstate, delivering an embarrassment and a closer race than expected for Trump on April 19.
    But the real action is on the left. Hillary Clinton is leading Bernie Sanders in New York -- where both can claim roots -- by a much thinner margin of 54% to 42%.
    Sanders was born in Brooklyn, where Clinton has set up her campaign headquarters, across the river from Bill Clinton's former offices in Harlem. And Hillary famously took up residence in New York in order to run for Senate there in 2000.
    The narrow lead she has over Bernie should be very, very troubling. There's no way around it: New York is a must win for her.
    That's not because she needs it to win the delegate threshold. It's because the loss would be so bruising, it would be very tough to recover.
    To put this into perspective, let's consider how handily Clinton won her New York Senate race, and against significant odds.
    Clinton launched her campaign in the summer of 1999 -- only after waiting out the end of her husband's impeachment proceedings, which came just months earlier, and before she had even purchased her $1.7 million 11-room home in tiny Chappaqua, necessary to claim residence.
    In the early months she made blunder after blunder. The Chicago native threw on a Yankees cap and insisted she'd always been a fan. She incurred the ire of many New York Jews after kissing the wife of Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat, just after she'd accused Israel of horrific war crimes. She was polling so badly among working, educated women that her campaign brought psychologists in to figure out why, according to Anne Kornblut's "Notes from the Cracked Ceiling."
    And despite all this -- the Lewinsky scandal, the impeachment hearings, the carpetbagging, the unfavorables -- Clinton defeated her Democratic opponent Mark McMahon 82% to 18%, and later her Republican challenger Rick Lazio 55% to 43%. She even won in traditionally Republican upstate areas.
    She has since gone on to become one of New Yorkers' favorite people -- and by New Yorkers, I mean Wall Street. She earns hundreds of thousands of dollars in speeches for big banks like Goldman Sachs. The Clinton Foundation is headquartered in New York City on the Avenue of the Americas. The Clintons might be more New York than Donald Trump is.
    That's the kind of forgiveness and admiration the tough voters of New York have had for Hillary Clinton. They took her in, gave her a beautiful home, a great job and tons of cash. If New York votes for Bernie Sanders, it will be safe to say she's lost a lot of good will there and likely elsewhere.
    When all is said and done, the storylines heading into New York are as long as Broadway and as colorful as Times Square. Get your popcorn out, because the real show is about to begin.