Rough night for Sanders as path to nomination erodes

MONTPELIER — Sen. Bernie Sanders had tough day Tuesday, unable to recreate the electoral magic he found with working class voters a week ago in Michigan and lost to his Democratic primary rival Hillary Clinton in Ohio, Illinois, North Carolina and Florida.

Sanders is also narrowly trailing Clinton in Missouri in a race that was still too close to call Wednesday morning. Clinton had a lead of about 1,500 votes there as of 7 a.m. Wednesday, and appeared poised to grab the fifth state up for grabs Tuesday.

Democratic presidential candidate, Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., speaks at a campaign rally at the Phoenix Convention Center in Phoenix, Tuesday, March 15, 2016. (AP Photo/Ricardo Arduengo)

Democratic presidential candidate, Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., speaks at a campaign rally at the Phoenix Convention Center in Phoenix, Tuesday, March 15, 2016. (AP Photo/Ricardo Arduengo)

The loss in Ohio cuts deep for Sanders, who had hoped to raise questions about Clinton’s viability and cement his political clout in the Rust Belt with a win in Ohio. But it is now Sanders who is struggling to explain his viability in the Democratic primary. Clinton won Ohio with 56.5 percent of the vote to Sanders’ 42.7 percent of the vote, with 92 percent of the vote recorded, according to CNN.

Sanders had hoped for a win in Illinois, too, and worked to link Clinton to Chicago’s unpopular mayor, Rahm Emanuel. But Clinton won the state by about 2 percentage points on Tuesday.

Sanders also lost big in Florida and North Carolina Tuesday as Clinton expanded her pledged delegate lead.

“I congratulate Secretary Clinton on her victories on Tuesday. I also want to thank the millions of voters across the nation who supported our campaign and elected delegates who will take us all the way to the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia,” Sanders said in a statement.

Sanders’ campaign said it plans to soldier on, believing the electoral map is more favorable to him in the coming weeks. But it is now nearly impossible for Sanders to overtake Clinton in the pledged delegate race, which means he would need superdelegates to abandon Clinton and choose him to win the nomination.

“With more than half the delegates yet to be chosen and a calendar that favors us in the weeks and months to come, we remain confident that our campaign is on a path to win the nomination,” Sanders said.

Sanders candidacy is likely to face new hurdles, however. On Tuesday night, none of the major news networks carried his election-night speech in Arizona. Maintain a media presence will become increasingly difficult as Clinton’s delegate lead grows.

But with a healthy fundraising base, Sanders can continue on in the race and will pick up more delegates in the states yet to vote.

neal.goswami@timesargus.com

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