Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders addresses a campaign rally in Salem, Oregon, May 10. Sanders beat rival Democrat Hillary Clinton in the West Virginia primary to bolster his argument for remaining in the race. (Rob Kerr | AFP | Getty Images)
Democrat Bernie Sanders, May 11, squarely defeated Hillary Clinton in West Virginia, in a reminder to the frontrunner that she was yet to wrap up her own presidential nomination before taking on Republican Donald Trump, who cruised to victory in two more states, writes Lalit K. Jha. (@Siliconeer, #Siliconeer, #2016USPresidentialRace, #HillaryClinton, #DonaldTrump, #Trump, #BernieSanders)
The 74-year-old Vermont Senator, Sanders, easily won the primary in West Virginia by more than 15 percentage points but acknowledged that he has an uphill climb in terms of becoming the party’s nominee.
Sanders’ win is unlikely to prevent the 68-year-old former secretary of state from emerging as the presumptive Democratic nominee – given that she has a massive lead over him in the delegates count, but at the same time ensuring that Clinton’s ticket for the race to the White House is not a cake walk.
Sanders has won 19 states to Clinton’s 23, but she is 94 per cent through the way to winning the nomination – just 144 delegates short of the 2,383 required.
As a consolation, Clinton won the Nebraska primary, but she is not getting any delegate from it. The delegates were allocated in the March 5 primary, which was won by Sanders.
Clinton received 10 delegates as against Sanders’ 15.
Addressing a rally in Salem, Oregon – where the primary is scheduled for May 17 – after the victory, Sanders said: “We now have won primaries and caucuses in 19 states.
Let me be as clear as I can be. We are in this campaign to win the Democratic nomination.”
He said he would continue his fight till the end of the primary season.
Sanders said the country should not elect Trump while also hinting that he would seek to unite the party in a general election if he fails to win the nomination.
“Our message to the Democratic delegates who will be assembling in Philadelphia is, while we may have many disagreements with Secretary Clinton, there is one area (where) we agree. And that is, we must defeat Donald Trump.
“And after all the votes are cast and counted and this contest moves to the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia, the delegates will decide which candidate is the strongest nominee to take on Donald Trump in November. All of the evidence indicates that I am that candidate,” he said.
In the Republican camp, the sole candidate Trump won both the primaries in West Virginia and Nebraska taking his total delegate count to 1,107.
Trump now needs just 130 delegates to officially become the presidential nominee of the party in July.
After the win, the 69-year-old real estate tycoon tweeted: “Thank you West Virginia!” and “Thank you Nebraska!”
“It is a great honor to have won both West Virginia and Nebraska, especially by such massive margins. My time spent in both states was a wonderful and enlightening experience for me,” Trump said in a statement.
“I learned a lot, and that knowledge will be put to good use towards the creation of businesses, jobs, and the strengthening and revival of their economies. I look forward to returning to West Virginia and Nebraska soon, and hope to win both states in the general election,” he said.
“Likewise, my time spent last week with the great people of Oregon will hopefully lead to another victory next Tuesday,” said Trump, who was attacked for the first time by Sanders.
A latest opinion poll released May 11 revealed that Sanders defeated Trump in a hypothetical match in the November general elections, but Sanders conceded that he has an uphill climb while referring to the latest delegate count, according to which Clinton leads Sanders by 1,705 to 1,415 in pledged delegates and 523 to 39 in super delegates.
Thus Clinton has an overall lead of 2,228 to 1,454. This means she could lose all the states left to vote by a landslide and still emerge as the nominee, so long as all her supporters among the party insiders known as super delegates continue to back her.
Sanders now hopes that the super delegates would tilt towards him.
“Now, we fully acknowledge we are good at arithmetic, that we have an uphill climb ahead of us, but we are used to fighting uphill climbs. We have been fighting uphill from the first day of this campaign when people considered us a fringe candidacy,” he said.
Sanders win also highlights voters’ concerns about the economy and signals the difficulty Clinton may have to face in industrial states in the general election.
Meanwhile, Clinton has shifted her focus to the general election even as the primaries continue.
“I don’t care about what he says about me,” she said of Trump in Louisville, Kentucky, May 10, where she released a proposal to ensure families do not spend over 10% of their income on childcare.
“But I do resent what he says about other people, other successful women, women who have worked hard, women who have done their part,” she added.