By Emily Flitter
NEW YORK (Reuters) - Donald Trump is expected to breeze to victory on Tuesday in the New York primary and he's vowed to put the heavily Democratic state in play in the November general election, but the Queens native could find his home state a political graveyard like so many Republican presidential contenders before him.
Polls show Trump beating his Republican rivals with about 50 percent support versus roughly 20 percent each for Senator Ted Cruz of Texas and Ohio Governor John Kasich. The New York businessman insists he is the only one of the three remaining candidates who can attract enough new voters to win states in the Nov. 8 general election that have long been key Democratic strongholds.
Trump has said repeatedly in interviews and on the campaign trail that he could rewrite the electoral map to put historically Democratic states such as New York and Pennsylvania in play in a general election. As he describes it, he has crossover appeal that is strongest in the populous northeastern United States, where social attitudes are more liberal than in the deeply religious South and Midwest.
Yet polls and voter-registration records suggest Trump's odds of beating a Democrat in any Northeastern state, let alone New York, are much lower than, say, Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton winning a fortune in a Trump-owned casino.
Corey Lewandowski, Trump's campaign manager, said in an interview that even though he hasn't started competing in the general election, Trump has an advantage in New York because he's well known and employs people in the state. He cited Trump's strong primary performances in Massachusetts and New Hampshire as evidence of his popularity in New England.
"What you have with Donald Trump is a candidate who is the only candidate in this race that will actually have an opportunity to win states that Mitt Romney didn't win," Lewandowski said, referring to the 2012 Republican presidential nominee, who is also a former Massachusetts governor.
Pennsylvania has 4 million registered Democrats and 3.1 million Republicans, but only 62,000 Democrats have switched sides since the beginning of 2016, state data show.
New York, with 5.8 million registered Democrats and 2.7 million Republicans, has shown virtually no shift, with the gap between registered voters of the two parties holding fairly steady between 2015 and 2016, according to state records. If Trump has crossover appeal, it's not yet apparent.
The strong Democratic tilt in the Northeast corridor - a region stretching from Maine to Maryland - has made it much harder for Republicans to win at the national level. A conservative has only won one state in the Northeast in the 20-year span from 1992-2012, when George W. Bush eked out a victory in New Hampshire in 2000.
New York has not gone Republican in a general election since 1984 when Reagan won 49 of 50 states in a historic landslide.
Trump touts his support with working-class voters, especially unionized workers. His biggest advocate in New York, the Buffalo businessman and former gubernatorial candidate Carl Paladino, said he expects Trump to attract new voters in November who support his call for tariffs on imported goods from China, Mexico and other countries that have cut into the U.S. manufacturing base.
Yet national polls suggest Trump lacks the crossover appeal with the independents and disaffected Democrats he frequently touts: A Reuters/Ipsos poll shows 62 percent of Americans view Trump unfavorably. Among women, who make up a slight majority of general-election voters, 67 percent view Trump unfavorably, according to the poll.
Former Pennsylvania Governor Tom Ridge, a Republican who served as secretary of homeland security under George W. Bush, called Trump "a very divisive person."
"I just don’t think his personality, nor his style, nor his point of view – whatever that is – will appeal to the kind of Republican and Democrat support he will need in Pennsylvania," said Ridge, who supports Kasich.
Trump has been a lightning rod for controversy, calling for Muslims to be banned from entering the United States, referring to people illegally crossing into the country from Mexico as "rapists" and suggesting women who get illegal abortions should be punished.
Even New Hampshire, with a close divide between Republicans and Democrats that makes it rare among Northeastern states, would be a long shot for Trump in a general election, predicted Dave Carney, a Republican strategist in the state.
"When upwards of 75 percent of women are repulsed by you, that's the largest voting bloc there is. Whether you're a New York woman or an Ohio woman, it makes all these little talking points irrelevant," Carney said.
(Editing by Caren Bohan and Leslie Adler)