MIAMI (AP) — Bernie Sanders’ political revolution may be turning into a more modest uprising.
Sanders’ insurgent campaign caught fire this fall, drawing huge crowds and raising questions about the breadth of Clinton’s appeal within her own party.
But as the contest has expanded past the largely white electorates of Iowa and New Hampshire, Sanders has struggled to capture support from minority voters. And he’s shown no sign of changing his economic-focused message to do so — a strategy that hurt his chances in a swath of primaries held across the country Tuesday.
After her wins on Super Tuesday, Clinton is nearly halfway to claiming enough delegates to win the nomination, when you include her superdelegates, the party insiders free to pick either candidate. If she keeps her superdelegates — they can change their minds — Clinton has to win only 40 percent of the remaining delegates to be the presumptive nominee.
Sanders’ road is much tougher. He would have to win 60 percent of the remaining delegates — including superdelegates — to claim the nomination. So far, he is winning just 29 percent.
On Tuesday, Clinton carried the four largest contested states in terms of delegates — Texas, Georgia, Virginia and Massachusetts. She won sweeping victories across the South and her narrow victory in Massachusetts denied the Vermont senator a large state he had sought near his home turf.
“Hillary has shown real strength in the Super Tuesday voting, establishing an impressive foundation going forward in the delegate race,” said Jeff Berman, Clinton’s delegate guru.
Beyond Vermont, Sanders’ wins came in Minnesota, Colorado and Oklahoma, where working-class white voters play a bigger role in Democratic contests.
The Democratic contests award delegates in proportion to the vote, meaning that even the loser wins some delegates.
With 865 delegates at stake, Clinton is assured of gaining at least 508 for Super Tuesday, having won seven states and the American Samoa. Her double-digit wins in delegate rich states in the South were able to overcome Sanders, who won four states. He picks up at least 342 delegates.
“We have no doubt that as long as Sen. Sanders remains in the primary, he will continue to win elections along the way, but it will make little difference to Hillary’s pledged delegate lead,” campaign manager Robby Mook wrote in a memo released Wednesday morning. “In order to catch up, Sen. Sanders doesn’t just have to start winning a few states, but he needs to start winning everywhere and by large margins.”
Sanders and his team showed no signs of exiting the race, with senior strategist Tad Devine saying he sees no scenario where Sanders gets out before the party convention in July.
In Portland, Maine on Wednesday, Sanders lashed out at his opponent, saying there is one candidate who takes millions of dollars from big banks, the fossil fuel industry “and perhaps weirdo billionaires. And that one candidate is not me.”
Later, before 10,000 supporters at Michigan State University, Sanders signaled he would make trade a big difference in the state’s March 8 primary, pointing to Clinton’s support of “disastrous trade policies” such as the North American Free Trade Agreement.
But Clinton has already set her sights beyond the party convention, taking aim at Republican front-runner Donald Trump.
“We have to make America whole again,” she said Wednesday at a rally in New York, trotting out her now-familiar rebuttal to Trump’s rallying cry of “Make America Great Again.”
But Sanders has another reason to keep going — money. His campaign reported raising more than $42 million in February — $12 million more than Clinton and enough to keep going well into the spring. Clinton aides believe any effort to push Sanders out of the contest could backfire with his liberal base, whose support they’ll need in the general election.
“We are going to be in this thing for the long run,” said Devine.
But there is a historical precedent for Clinton’s argument: In 2008, then Illinois Sen. Barack Obama used a post-Super Tuesday winning streak to set up a 100-delegate lead that Clinton never could surmount.
With that defeat still fresh in her mind, Clinton moved quickly to hire Obama’s team to run her delegate operation. Their plan was to use a big win on South Carolina as a springboard into the Super Tuesday contest, where they’d establish a sizeable enough advantage to push Sanders out of the race.
Exit polls showed Clinton backed by at least of 80 percent of black voters in the Southern states — a key demographic.
While she made inroads with voters between the ages of 30 and 44, but her strong showing among older and minority voters looks like it will be sufficient to outmaneuver Sanders in the primary, who’s staked his campaign on increasing turnout among white working-class voters.
Sanders’ campaign is planning a major push in Michigan, where Clinton and Sanders will attend a debate Sunday in Flint and then compete in the state’s primary two days later.
Sanders aides are also looking ahead to caucuses in Kansas and Nebraska on Saturday and Maine’s caucuses on Sunday, hoping that liberal voters in the mostly white states will bolster the senator’s cause. Clinton is expected to fare well in Saturday’s Louisiana primary, helped by the state’s black voters.
Thomas reported from Burlington, Vt., and Yen reported from Washington. Associated Press writers Stephen Ohlemacher in Washington and Jonathan Lemire in New York contributed to this report.
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