Will rebels take New York primary?

Story highlights

  • Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump face key tests in Tuesday's vote
  • Will New York side with the regulars or the rebels?

Errol Louis is the host of "Inside City Hall," a nightly political show on NY1, a New York all-news channel. The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the author.

(CNN)The unexpectedly important New York primary will go down in political history as the place where insurgent forces staged a dramatic, ferocious attack on the establishment of the major parties. We'll find out Tuesday whether New Yorkers side with the regulars or the rebels.

On the Democratic side, Sen. Bernie Sanders has staked an enormous amount of time and effort on the longshot possibility of beating front-runner Hillary Clinton in her home state. The latest polls suggest that an upset win is out of reach for Sanders, but he is hoping for a repeat of what happened last month in Michigan, where Clinton was ahead by 21 points in the polls but still lost to Sanders.
"We are gonna change the status quo," Sanders told a crowd of more than 20,000 that turned out to see him in Brooklyn two days before the primary, concluding the rally with a passionate cry: "New York State, help lead this country into the political revolution!"
    Sanders has clearly identified important cracks in the façade of Democratic unity. His popularity with so-called millennials, who are between 18 and 34 years old, has drawn a great deal of commentary and is a warning shot to party leaders about where young voters are leaning on key issues including renewable energy, the cost of higher education and the need to curb the influence of corporate money on the political system.
    If Sanders manages to beat Clinton in New York, or even come close, it would have a seismic impact on the race.
    The challenge for Sanders, as always, is turning revolution into political results: to close Clinton's lead in pledged delegates, he would need to win New York along with all five of the states holding primaries on April 26. Clinton enjoys a significant lead in the polls in Connecticut, Maryland and Pennsylvania, meaning Sanders will need to pull off Michigan-style upsets in one state after another.
    Among Republicans, the best-known anti-establishment insurgent happens to be a New Yorker, and billionaire frontrunner Donald Trump hopes to use a victory in his home state to blunt the advance of Sen. Ted Cruz, who has been outmaneuvering Trump to capture delegates in a string of states, including some where Trump lost due to his failure to master arcane delegate-selection procedures.
    In the last three weeks, Cruz scarfed up 40 delegates in Utah, 18 out of 25 in North Dakota, 36 out of 42 delegates in Wisconsin, grabbed all 34 in Colorado and last weekend took 14 more in Wyoming. He is diligently pursuing a strategy of keeping Trump under the key number of 1,237 delegates, the total required to claim the nomination.
    Ohio Gov. John Kasich, who is polling a respectable second place in New York, is chasing the same possibility: a summer convention at which Trump fails to win the needed majority of delegates, after which the convention might select Cruz or Kasich instead.
    Trump has attacked the process as "rigged" and vowed to win the 1,237 delegates needed to capture the Republican nomination outright. The first step in that process requires an overwhelming win in New York, which polls suggest is well within reach. Carl Paladino, Trump's New York co-chairman, predicted to me that Trump will win all 95 of New York's delegates, a win that would move him closer to the nomination and add new fuel to his war on the party establishment.
    "You're going to have a rough July at that convention," Trump warned party leaders at a campaign rally in upstate New York. "You'd better get going, and you'd better straighten out the system because the people want their vote. The people want their vote, and they want to be represented properly."
    Trump, like Sanders, is hoping that voters will validate their tough talk and energetic challenges to the leadership of their parties. Watch the results in New York to see if the revolution is at hand.