Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton moved closer to becoming her party’s nominee. On Tuesday evening, April 26, 2016, Clinton won four out of five of the Atlantic states primaries with over 50 percent of the vote, including Maryland, Connecticut, Delaware, and the largest delegate prize Pennsylvania. Meanwhile, rival Bernie Sanders won one primary Rhode Island and lost by double-digit margins in the remaining four states; still Sanders insists he will remain in the campaign until the convention.
Clinton had her largest margin of victory in Maryland where she won 63.3 percent to Sanders 33.3 percent. In Delaware, she won 59.8 percent of the vote to Sanders’ 39.2 percent. In Pennsylvania, Clinton won 55.6 percent to Sanders’ 43.6 percent. In her closest call of the night, Clinton won Connecticut with 51.7 percent of the vote to Sanders’ 46.5 percent. Sanders won Rhode Island with a significant victory of 55 percent to Clinton’s 43.3 percent.
Clinton gave her victory speech at the Pennsylvania Convention Center in downtown Philadelphia, the same center the Democratic National Convention will be held in July, and she will most likely be named the official Democratic nominee. Clinton focused her speech on unifying the party after a divisive hard-fought primary race.
Clinton addressed her supporters, stating, “Now, with your help we’re going to come back to Philadelphia for the Democratic National Convention with the most votes and the most pledged delegates. We will unify our party to win this election and build an America where we can all rise together, an America where we lift each other up instead of tearing each other down.”
Clinton also spoke to Sanders’ supporters trying to woo their support and vote. Clinton praised Sanders, his campaign, and supporters, “I applaud Senator Sanders and his millions of supporters for challenging us to get unaccountable money out of our politics and giving greater emphasis to closing the gap of inequality and I know together we will get that done. Whether you support Senator Sanders or you support me, there’s much more that unites us than divides us.”
Clinton also turned towards the general election responding to an attack by Donald Trump, who will most likely be the Republican presidential nominee. Clinton took aim at her general election opponent, saying, “The other day Mr. Trump accused me of playing the, quote, woman card. Well, if fighting for women’s health care and paid family leave and equal pay is playing the woman’s card, then deal me in.”
With Tuesday night’s primary losses, Sanders’s path to the Democratic nomination becomes impossible without the superdelegate support Clinton now possesses. With his concession statement, Sanders pointed to a new direction for his campaign to influence the issues in the party’s platform rather than clinching the nomination. In his statement, Sanders promised an “issue-oriented campaigns in the 14 contests to come.”
Still Sanders insisted he would remain in the race until the end of the primary season. Sanders stated, “The people in every state in this country should have the right to determine who they want as president and what the agenda of the Democratic Party should be. That’s why we are in this race until the last vote is cast.”
Sanders, however, seemed clear the fight was now over the party platform, rather than for the nomination. Sanders listed his demands, “That is why this campaign is going to the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia with as many delegates as possible to fight for a progressive party platform that calls for a $15 an hour minimum wage, an end to our disastrous trade policies, a Medicare-for-all health care system, breaking up Wall Street financial institutions, ending fracking in our country, making public colleges and universities tuition free and passing a carbon tax so we can effectively address the planetary crisis of climate change.”
Sanders’ message was different at a rally Tuesday evening in Huntington, West Virginia, where the state is holding their primary on May 10. There Sanders was still talking about winning, and being the best nominee for the general election. Sanders expressed, “As of today we have now won 16 primaries and caucuses all over this country. And with your help we’re going to win here in West Virginia.”
Sanders pointed to the general election match-up polls, which indicated he would beat Trump by a larger margin in November than Clinton, with as much as 15 percent of the vote. Sanders noted, “Almost every national poll and every state poll has us defeating Trump and that margin for us is significantly larger than Madam Secretary Clinton.”
Sanders cited the reason for those polls is substantial support from independent voters; Sanders pointed out, “And the reason that we are doing so much better against Republican candidates is that not only are we winning the overwhelming majority of Democratic votes, but we are winning independent votes and some Republican votes as well.”
Sanders said he hopes the superdelegates would recognize his strong independent support at the Democratic convention, “And that is what I hope the delegates to the Democratic convention fully understand.” Sanders, however, admitted earlier he doubts he can changed the minds of the over 500 superdelegates that agreed to support Clinton most before the primaries even started.
Sanders lost out in the Atlantic primaries and New York’s primary last week because they were closed primaries where only registered Democrats could vote, in contrast, Rhode Island permitted unaffiliated voters to vote. Sanders pointed out that problem, “We were in New York state last week [and] 3 million people in New York state could not vote because they were independents. Well you know what? Those folks and independents all over the country will be voting in November for the next president of the United States.”
Clinton’s campaign insists that Sanders has no path to the nomination after Tuesday night. Sanders intends to meet with his advisors “reassess where his candidacy stands,” on Wednesday, April 27 but will likely remain in the race with different goals than the nomination. Sanders primary wins and independent support are bargaining chips the Clinton campaign has to take account of at the convention.
Clinton won Tuesday at least 214 of the 384 delegates up for grabs. Clinton has 1,666 pledged and 502 superdelegates for a total of 2,168 delegates. In contrast, Sanders has 1,359 pledged delegates and 42 superdelegates for a total of 1,401 delegates.