Democrat Bernie Sanders wins Alaska, Washington, Hawaii caucuses
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[March 28, 2016]
By John Whitesides and Amanda Becker
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Democratic
presidential contender Bernie Sanders easily won nominating contests in
Alaska, Washington and Hawaii on Saturday, chipping away at front-runner
Hillary Clinton's commanding lead in the race to pick the party's
candidate for the White House.
Sanders still faces a steep climb to overtake Clinton but the big
victories in the West generated more momentum for his upstart
campaign and could stave off calls from Democratic leaders that he
should wrap up his bid in the name of party unity.
Sanders appeared headed to victory margins of more than 50
percentage points in both Alaska and Washington, and led by about 40
points in Hawaii with some 90 percent of the results tallied there.
"We are making significant inroads in Secretary Clinton's lead and
... we have a path to victory," Sanders told cheering, chanting
supporters in Madison, Wisconsin. "It is hard for anybody to deny
that our campaign has the momentum."
Clinton, the former secretary of state, has increasingly turned her
attention toward a potential Nov. 8 general election showdown
against Republican front-runner Donald Trump, claiming she is on the
path to wrapping up the nomination.
Heading into Saturday, she led Sanders by about 300 pledged
delegates in the race for the 2,382 delegates needed to be nominated
at the party's July convention in Philadelphia. Adding in the
support of superdelegates - party leaders who are free to back any
candidate - she has 1,690 delegates to 946 for Sanders.
Sanders, a U.S. senator from Vermont, needs to win up to two-thirds
of the remaining delegates to catch Clinton, who will keep piling up
delegates even when she loses under a Democratic Party system that
awards them proportionally in all states.
"These wins will help him raise more funds for the next few weeks
but I don't think it changes the overall equation," said Democratic
strategist Jim Manley, a Clinton supporter. "Hillary Clinton has too
big a lead."
But Sanders has repeatedly said he is staying in the race until the
convention, pointing to big crowds at his rallies and high turnout
among young and first-time voters as proof of his viability. After
raising $140 million, he has the money to fight on as long as he
He has energized the party's liberal base and young voters with his
calls to rein in Wall Street and fight income inequality, a message
that resonated in liberal Washington and other Western states.
Sanders won in Utah and Idaho this week.
"Don't let anybody tell you we can't win the nomination or the
general election," Sanders told supporters in Wisconsin, which holds
the next contest on April 5. "We are going to do both."
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All three contests on Saturday were caucuses, a format that has
favored Sanders because it requires more commitment from voters.
They also were in states with fewer of the black and Hispanic voters
who have helped fuel Clinton's lead.
"He was just more aligned with my values. I am young and I never
knew there could be someone like him in politics," said Samantha
Burton of Seattle, who said Sanders was the first candidate who had
inspired her to make a donation.
Jocelyn Alt, a birthing assistant at a Seattle hospital, said she
backed Clinton because she believed the times called for someone who
could get things done.
"She knows how to make things happen," she said. "I think Hillary is
more likely to win against a Republican."
After Wisconsin, the Democratic race moves to contests in New York
on April 19 and a bloc of five states in the Northeast, led by
Pennsylvania, on April 26.
There were no contests on Saturday in the Republican race featuring
Trump and rivals U.S. Senator Ted Cruz of Texas and Ohio Governor
On Saturday, the New York Times published a lengthy foreign
policy-focused interview with Trump. The New York billionaire told
the newspaper he might stop oil purchases from Saudi Arabia unless
they provide troops to fight the Islamic State.
Trump also told the Times he was willing to rethink traditional U.S.
alliances should he become president.
(Additional reporting by Eric Johnson in Seattle and Chris Michaud;
editing by Bill Trott and Jason Neely)
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