- Associated Press - Thursday, May 12, 2016

TRENTON, N.J. (AP) - The state’s Democratic presidential primary has heightened meaning and candidates Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders are doing their best to woo New Jersey voters.

Clinton holds a big edge in support among New Jersey voters heading into the June 7 primary. She is 143 delegates away from sealing up the Democratic nomination ahead of the July convention in Philadelphia.

Sanders hosted rallies at Rutgers University and in Atlantic City, and Clinton at Camden County College in Blackwood.

Clinton will get campaigning help when former President Bill Clinton and her daughter, Chelsea, stump in the state Friday.

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INSIDER-OUTSIDER CONTRAST

Clinton’s connections in New Jersey run deep. She has the backing of most of the state’s Democratic congressional delegation, party chairmen in all the state’s counties and won the state against Barack Obama in the 2008 primary.

“She’s earned her stripes,” Barbra Siperstein, a DNC member and Clinton supporter said recently.

Clinton had raised nearly $4 million in New Jersey compared with Sanders’ $1.4 million, as of the latest campaign finance filings in March.

By contrast, while Sanders has won the backing of at least two super delegates, he is a new face to New Jersey Democratic primary voters. His backers are counting on that outsider status as a selling point to voters.

“The establishment has chosen to side with Secretary Clinton, but their decision doesn’t decide the election,” said Democratic Assemblyman John Wisniewski, who is backing Sanders. “The voters do.”

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WHAT THE POLLS SAY

Clinton leads Sanders in polling in New Jersey. A recent Monmouth University poll showed Clinton with a nearly 30-point advantage. That poll surveyed 301 registered voters and had a margin of error of plus or minus 5.7 percentage points. A recent Rutgers-Eagleton poll had Clinton with a smaller, 9-point lead over Sanders. That survey included 738 registered voters with a margin of error of plus or minus 3.6 percentage points.

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TIMING COULD COUNT

The New Jersey contest comes as Clinton, the former Secretary of State, is just 143 delegates shy of the 2,383 needed to clinch the nomination. Sanders, a U.S. senator from Vermont, who needs 910 delegates to win, is riding some momentum after winning in West Virginia, but is more than 900 delegates away from securing the nomination.

New Jersey carries 142 delegates, who will be awarded proportionally. Instead of ratifying the decision of earlier-voting party members, New Jersey Democrats get a chance to weigh in, which could help turnout, insiders say.

Reni Erdos, a Democratic National Committee member and Sanders supporter, said it’s exciting that New Jersey’s late vote is getting attention, but she thinks California’s primary the same day will get most of the spotlight.

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