Bernie Sanders scored three wins in Western caucus contests on Saturday, giving a powerful psychological boost to his supporters but doing little to move him closer to securing the Democrat nomination.
While results in Washington, Alaska and Hawaii barely dented Hillary Clinton’s significant delegate lead, Sanders’ wins underscored her persistent vulnerabilities within her own party, particularly with young voters and liberal activists who have been inspired by her rival’s unapologetically liberal message.
Sanders cast his performance as part of a Western comeback, saying he expects to close the delegate gap with Clinton as the contest moves to the more liberal northeastern states, including her home state of New York. He also said his campaign is increasing its outreach to superdelegates, the party insiders who can pick either candidate, and are overwhelmingly with Clinton.
“The Deep South is a very conservative part of the country,” he said. “Now that we’re heading into a progressive part of the country, we expect to do much better.”
He added: “There is a path to victory.” With Clinton far in front, however, it is a difficult path.
Clinton anticipated the losses: she barely campaigned in the three states, making just one day of stops in Washington state, and was spending the Easter weekend with her family.
She is turning her focus to the 19 April contest in New York, seeking to win a large share of the delegates at stake and to avoid the blow of losing to Sanders in a state she represented in the Senate. She is trying to lock up an even larger share of delegates in five Northeastern contests a week later, hoping to deliver a big enough haul to unify the party and relegate Sanders to little more than a protest candidate.
Sanders, who’s found some success in the industrial Midwest, wants to leverage his working-class support and fiery arguments against free trade into an 5 April victory in delegate-rich Wisconsin. He also plans to compete fiercely in New York and is pushing for the party to schedule a debate in the state, saying in the interview that it would be “really absurd” if one did not take place.