By Amanda Becker
WASHINGTON – Democratic rivals Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders are facing off in a U.S. presidential nominating contest in Wyoming on Saturday, as the candidates gear up for a crucial match-up in New York.
Sanders, a U.S. senator from Vermont, is fresh off a string of recent wins and looking to continue chipping away at Clinton’s sizeable lead in the number of delegates needed to secure the party’s nomination.
Just 14 Democratic delegates are up for grabs in Wyoming – fewer than any other state – and even a commanding win by Sanders there would do little to help him close the gap.
Clinton currently has more than half of the 2,383 delegates needed to win the nomination. Sanders trails her by 250 pledged delegates, those awarded proportionate to the popular vote in the state nominating contests.
Clinton’s lead widens when super delegates, Democratic leaders who can decide whom to support at the party’s July convention, are included in the tallies.
Clinton and Sanders have spent much of the past week in New York, which holds its contest on April 19 and where a total of 291 delegates are up for grabs.
Clinton, a former secretary of state, considers New York her home turf. She represented the state as a U.S. senator and has headquartered her campaign in the New York City borough of Brooklyn. Sanders has reminded voters he was born and raised in Brooklyn. Recent polls have shown Clinton more than 10 points ahead in the state.
Tension between the two candidates flared earlier this week in a party race that has typically focused on policies and not personal attacks.
After a back-and-forth about who was most qualified to be president, Clinton and Sanders dialed back their criticism of one another on Friday.
“I think this has all been pretty silly,” Clinton told reporters at a campaign stop in Buffalo, in upstate New York. “He made his comments and there was no basis for them. It was completely a misrepresentation, and he seemed to take them back today.”
In Wyoming’s Republican contest last month, U.S. Senator Ted Cruz of Texas beat New York billionaire Donald Trump, the party’s front-runner. Cruz is trying to block Trump from receiving enough delegates to win the nomination outright, which would lead to a contested convention in July.
A new Reuters/Ipsos poll shows that a third of Trump’s Republican supporters could consider abandoning the party’s candidate if Trump is denied the nomination at a contested convention.
(Reporting by Amanda Becker; Editing by Leslie Adler)