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Clinton, Trump court New York voters

| Monday, April 11, 2016, 10:06 p.m.

NEW YORK — Tensions frayed in both parties Monday as Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump tried to stave off the prospect of a lengthy battle to the nomination with big victories in New York.

While Clinton escalated her attacks against rival Bernie Sanders, Republican leader Donald Trump complained about a “rigged” nomination process, prompting a fierce defense from party leaders. Both candidates are pushing for big wins in next week's New York primary, hoping to create a sense of inevitability around their candidacies with sizable delegate gains.

Campaigning in southern California, Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas described Trump's attacks on the Republican nomination process as “whining.” Trump erupted on Fox News on Monday morning over his loss of recently allocated delegates in Colorado to Cruz.

“Donald has been yelling and screaming. A lot of whining. I'm sure some cursing. And some late-night fevered tweeting,” Cruz told hundreds of supporters gathered in Irvine, Calif.

He noted Trump's complaints follow his struggles in recent primary contests in Utah, North Dakota, Wisconsin and Colorado.

At a rally in Rochester on Sunday, Trump had blasted the way in which the country chooses presidential party nominees as “corrupt” and “crooked” — a sentiment echoed by surrogates and supporters who appear increasingly troubled by Cruz's superior efforts when it comes to wrangling delegates.

“I see it with Bernie, too,” Trump told Fox News, pointing to the Democratic race. “Every time I turn on your show — Bernie wins, Bernie wins, Bernie wins. And yet Bernie's not winning. I mean, it's a rigged system, folks.”

Trump's accusations come as he seeks to outmaneuver Cruz in local state gatherings where the delegates who will attend the summer convention are being chosen. In state after state, Cruz's campaign has implemented a more strategic approach to picking up delegates, which despite Trump's current lead, are essential if he wants to reach the 1,237 delegates needed to win the nomination.

The complaints call into question the integrity of the voting process at a time when the party could be working to unify behind its front-runner. In an interview with conservative radio host Mike Gallagher, Reince Priebus, chairman of the Republican National Committee, pushed back against Trump's claims, saying the convention system used in Colorado is “not an affront to the people of Colorado. It just is what the rule is.”

“I don't know why a majority is such a difficult concept for some people to accept,” he said.

Clinton, meanwhile, hopes to capture what her team says would be an all-but-insurmountable lead by the end of the month. Campaigning across southern New York on Monday, Clinton targeted Sanders' record on guns, immigration, Wall Street reform and foreign policy.

“I have noticed that under the bright spotlight and scrutiny here in New York, Sen. Sanders has had trouble answering questions,” she told reporters after a campaign event at an Indian restaurant in Queens.

Sanders hit back at a rally in the upstate New York city of Binghamton, rallying supporters with a lengthy rift slamming Clinton for promoting fracking as secretary of state and only offering conditional opposition to the practice. The oil and gas drilling method, reviled by environmentalists, has been banned in New York.

The harsher tone comes just days before the two Democrats will meet on stage for the first Democratic primary debate in more than a month. Since their last faceoff, the contest has taken a decidedly negative turn, with the two candidates trading a series of barbs over their qualifications for the White House.

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