- Candidates’ split on delegates won’t change race dynamics
- Vermont senator vows to carry fight to Democratic convention
Bernie Sanders won the Democratic presidential primary in Oregon on Tuesday while Hillary Clinton claimed victory in a closely fought contest in Kentucky, a split decision that will do little to change the nomination race but may delay the party from focusing on the general election.
Sanders, who campaigned hard in Oregon as he sought to slow front-runner Clinton’s advance toward the Democratic nomination, was projected to win the state by television networks and the Associated Press. With three-quarters of precincts reporting, he was drawing 54.5 percent of the vote to Clinton’s 45.5 percent.
“This is in a sense the beginning of the final push to win California," Sanders said at a rally Tuesday night in California. “We are in ’til the last ballot is cast."
Kentucky officially remained too close to call hours after polls closed. With almost all precincts reporting, Clinton held a lead of less than a percentage point with more than 450,000 votes cast. Michael Briggs, a spokesman for Sanders, said the campaign will make a decision Wednesday on whether to seek a recount.
"We just won Kentucky. Thanks to everyone who turned out,” Clinton said via Twitter four hours after polls closed.
Sanders, a Vermont senator, still faces long odds of defeating Clinton, the former secretary of state. Sanders and his campaign staff have acknowledged that his path to the nomination is rapidly closing, and Tuesday’s contests awarded delegates proportionally, meaning Clinton added to her delegate total.
She now has 96 percent of the delegates and superdelegates -- party officials and officeholders who aren’t bound by primary or caucus results -- needed to clinch the nomination, according to an Associated Press estimate Wednesday. Sanders has 64 percent. He’d need to win about two-thirds of the rest of the pledged delegates to pull even with Clinton by the end of the nominating race, according to AP.
Sanders sought to rally his supporters, saying the final series of primaries, including New Jersey, California, Montana and New Mexico, give him a chance to carry momentum into the Democratic National Convention in July in Philadelphia.
"It will be a steep climb, I recognize that,” he said. “But we have the possibility of going to Philadelphia with the majority of the pledged delegates."
Sanders’s campaign has been trying to persuade superdelegates from states he’s won to switch sides, with little success. He’s also hoping to bolster his argument with superdelegates by finishing strong with pledged delegates in the remaining 11 contests, including California and its 548 delegates.
Party officials have begun voicing concerns about wider fractures being caused by the extended primary contest, especially after Sanders supporters erupted during last weekend’s state party convention in Nevada.
Some Sanders backers threw chairs and shouted down speakers during the convention, at which Clinton was awarded a majority of delegates. The chairwoman of the Nevada Democratic Party was subjected to threatening messages on her voicemail afterward.
Democratic National Committee Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz and Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada called on Sanders to speak out. Sanders responded with a statement saying that Democratic leaders must "understand that the political world is changing and that millions of Americans are outraged" and the political and economic establishment.
The Nevada state Democratic Party said in a release that the Sanders campaign was being "dishonest about what happened Saturday and is failing to adequately denounce the threats of violence of his supporters."
In his speech Tuesday night in California, Sanders said the party leadership should “do the right thing and open its doors and welcome into the party people who are prepared to fight for real economic and social equality.”