Democratic candidate and Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders put a damper on frontrunner Hillary Clinton’s momentum for the Democratic nomination. On Western Saturday, March 26, 2016, Sanders swept all three Democratic caucuses held, winning by large margins in Alaska, Washington state and Hawaii. Sanders won each caucus with over 70 percent of the vote, garnering the majority of the 142 delegates up for grabs on Saturday. Still analysts are saying Sanders wins barely dents Clinton’s delegate lead, however, if nonbinding superdelegates are removed from the mix the race becomes much closer.
There were big voter turnouts in all three states, which helped propel Sanders to such significant victory margins. In Washington, Sanders won the state’s caucus 72.7 percent to Clinton’s 27.1 percent. His victory in Alaska is being considered a landslide, where Sanders garnered 81.6 percent to 18.4 percent for Clinton. In Hawaii, Sanders also won by a significant margin, 69.8 percent to Clinton’s 30 percent. Sanders will take the majority of Washington’s 101 delegates, and Hawaii’s 25 and Alaska’s 16 delegates.
After his victories in each state, Sanders tweeted his gratitude. To Alaska Sanders wrote, “Thank you, Alaska! Together we are sending a message that this government belongs to all of us.” While to Washington Sanders expressed, “Washington, thank you for your huge support! It is hard for anybody to deny that our campaign has the momentum.”
Saturday evening after the Associated Press declared Sanders the victor of Alaska and Washington caucuses, Sanders delivered a victory speech at a rally in Madison, Wisconsin. Sanders expressed, “We knew things were going to improve as we headed West. We are making significant inroads in Secretary Clinton’s lead. With your support coming here in Wisconsin.” Sanders is campaigning in Wisconsin ahead of their April 5 primary.
Sanders told his cheering crowd of 8,000 supporters, “We are on a path toward victory. It is hard for anybody to deny that our campaign has the momentum.” The Democratic candidate indicated he can still win the nomination, “With your help we’re going to win right here in Wisconsin. So don’t let anyone tell you we can’t win the nomination, or win the general election. We’re going to do both of those things.”
Sanders could win Wisconsin, but he still faces an uphill battle in April as some contests might favor Clinton, including “her home state of New York on April 19” which has “247 pledged delegates” up for grabs. The contests on the April 26 Super Tuesday, are also considered possible Clinton wins and include Pennsylvania, Connecticut, Delaware, Rhode Island and Maryland. With those contests, there are “400 pledged delegates are at stake.”
Clinton did not personally address her losses and Sanders’ victories. Only her campaign manager Robby Mook sent out an email before the races were called to supporters asking them to “chip in” donations. The email had the subject heading “quick update on Bernie Sanders.” The donation request read, “We haven’t caught up in online fundraising, and our opponent could do very well in today’s caucuses in Washington, Alaska, and Hawaii. Now, I don’t want to paint too gloomy a picture — you’ve been amazing. Thanks to you, we still have a commanding delegate lead, and we can secure this nomination for Hillary with your help.”
None of the candidates campaigned in Hawaii and Alaska. Sanders’ wife Jane campaigned for her husband in both Alaska and Hawaii were she appeared alongside Hawaii Rep. Tulsi Gabbard. Both campaigned extensively in Washington. The Seattle Times endorsed the Vermont senator in early March. Sanders also attracted huge crowds at his rallies, and the capping event was a rally in Seattle’s Safeco Field with 15,000 in attendance.
Clinton knew she would probably not win Washington or Alaska, which she lost in 2008. Clinton, however, had strong ties to Hawaii from her husband former President Bill Clinton first campaign in 1992, and she had the endorsements of Sens. Mazie Hirono and Brian Schatz, and former Gov. George Ariyoshi.
In Washington, Clinton hoped for a close result, but she did not spend much money or time in the state as Sanders relying more on her endorsements from Democratic leaders in the state. Clinton’s campaign even mailed Washington’s “surrogate affidavits” which are absentee ballots with return postage just to get votes. As CNN noted, “Given those efforts, the size of Sanders’s margins on Saturday served as a warning shot to Clinton.”
Sanders made a dent in Clinton’s pledged delegate count. The current count for pledged delegates shows a difference of less than 300. Clinton has 1243 delegates to Sanders 975 with 2383 needed to win the nomination. Clinton has 469 superdelegates to Sanders’ 29. Most media outlets include the unpledged delegates boosting Clinton’s total, but the count is unfair as they are not binding. Sanders’ campaign shares that philosophy.
Sanders campaign manager Jeff Weaver spoke to CNN’s Suzanne Malveaux about the uncommitted superdelegates in an interview on Saturday. Weaver believes, “Superdelegates want to win in November, and as we demonstrate in the second half of this primary season that we have the momentum, that we can carry with large margins these states, and with the public polls which have shown consistently that Bernie Sanders does better against every single possible Republican than does Hillary Clinton — I think superdelegates are going to begin to take another look.” With continued victories and momentum Sanders may still have a path to the nomination.