I have over 40 years' experience closely watching New York State's primary battles and 2016 is hardly the first time that it has become a pivot point in a presidential election. But this is indeed the first time that two New Yorkers have dominated their respective parties and the April 19 primary is probably the most important vote prior to the November election.

On the Democratic side, the conventional wisdom is that Hillary Clinton's nomination is inevitable and the simple math makes it impossible for Bernie Sanders to collect enough delegates to win at the Democratic National Convention in July. That could be true in the end, but there are some important caveats to this piece of wisdom. First is that talk of inevitability has seldom worked for Mrs. Clinton. I recall in late 2007 that her chief strategist that year produced a 300 page memo walking her each step through to her inauguration. There is an air of "let's get this over with, everyone knows I am going to win anyway" - and voters don't like that.

Second, is that the left has done historically well in Democratic primaries in New York. In addition to numerous instances where the more progressive candidate has drubbed the establishment candidate in gubernatorial or senate candidate, this has often enough be true in presidential primaries. George McGovern sealed the deal for his nomination in New York in 1972 and Ted Kennedy won his first major primary here against President Jimmy Carter in 1980, which led to a string of victories that ensured him a place at the Democratic Convention that year. There is an active leftwing presence not only in liberal New York City but in the major cities of Upstate New York as well.

Third is that, while Mrs. Clinton won her Senate races by landslides in 2000 and 2006, Mr. Sanders is a native New Yorker and will probably do well among New York's substantial liberal Jewish voters.

No doubt, Mrs. Clinton has some decided advantages. She has the support of the state's Governor, 2 US Senators, and 18 Democratic members of the House from New York. And she knows many leading Democrats by their first name. She also has done very well among African American and Hispanic voters who can be up to about 40%-45% of the vote total. However, in Wisconsin Mr. Sanders received 31% of the African American vote and won with white voters by a substantial amount. Mrs. Clinton also benefits by New York's "closed primary" system, meaning only registered Democrats can cast their votes in the primary. This provides a huge boost to her because she has been mainly doing well with Democrats, while he has been dominant with independents.

But she also can be dogged by her vote for the Iraq War. This is a lightning rod issue for both progressives and young voters. Mr. Sanders won over 80% of the young voters in Wisconsin (and in most other states as well).

Mr. Sanders won his home state of Vermont with over 80% support of the votes. Initially the Clinton camp was claiming that she would walk away with about 65% in New York. (There goes that inevitability talk again). But polls show her at about 52%-53% and Sanders in the low forties. Coming off losses in 8 of the last 9 primaries and caucuses, even winning by a few points in her home state would be very damaging. This could very well happen.

And what would it mean? I am still a little uncomfortable counting the "pledged" super delegates in her total winning column just yet. Being hurt in New York could start an exodus of enough of these super delegates to prevent an outright majority for Mrs. Clinton. Remember, super delegates want to win in November and have the strongest possible name at the head of ticket. An unlikely loss in New York would be devastating to her. But a weaker than expected showing would raise a lot of eyebrows and shake a lot of heads. And, beyond this current two-way race, there may be other names that are more appealing to delegates without the heavy baggage. Super delegates, in many cases, have to bow to both the will of the voters in their states and districts and the reality of the need to have a strong and popular name at the head of the ticket. It may be more of a Joe Biden or whomever. Mrs. Clinton has now been rallying her forces with the battle cry that she needs "to win big in New York". The truth is that nothing short of that will suffice.

Next post will look at the New York GOP primary.