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Bernie Sanders celebrates landslide wins in Alaska, Washington and Hawaii

Published 28/03/2016

Bernie Sanders scored caucus wins in Alaska and Washington state (AP)
Bernie Sanders scored caucus wins in Alaska and Washington state (AP)
Bernie Sanders salutes Democrat supporters at a rally in Seattle (AP)
Supporters wave signs as Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders speaks during a campaign rally at West High School on March 21, 2016 in Salt Lake City, Utah. The Republican and Democratic caucus will be held in Utah on Tuesday, March 22. (Photo by George Frey/Getty Images)
Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders shakes hands after a speech at West High School at a campaign rally on March 21, 2016 in Salt Lake City, Utah. The Republican and Democratic caucuses are March 22. (Photo by George Frey/Getty Images)
Supporters of Democratic presidental candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders gather before his rally at The Wiltern Theatre on March 23, 2016 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Matt Winkelmeyer/Getty Images)

Fans of Senator Bernie Sanders, the insurgent challenger to Hillary Clinton for the Democratic nomination, are celebrating after the candidate swept a trio of western states giving fresh lustre to a campaign that had started to dim.

The democratic socialist not only triumphed in caucus voting in Washington, Alaska and Hawaii at the weekend but did so with huge margins, scoring no less than 68 per cent in any of them.  He won the Alaska caucus by a landslide securing 81.6 per cent of the vote to just 18.4 per cent for Mrs Clinton.

His strong performance in the western states will not significantly alter the mathematics of the Democratic contest where Mrs Clinton still holds a wide lead in the delegate count.  But it will surely give the Senator from Vermont a mighty psychological boost at the very moment he needed it most.

It has been a tough stretch for the ‘Feel the Bern’ crew since Mr Sanders’ win in New Hampshire back at the start of February. Ms Clinton thereafter used strong support from blacks and Hispanics to block Mr Sanders’ progress especially in a swath of southern states that have voted in the weeks since. 

The former first lady has a lead of a bit under 300 pledged delegates at this point, which becomes much wider if you include so-called ‘super-delegates’, mostly bigwigs from state and county Democratic parties, who can take sides anyway they like and so far have mostly promised to back Mrs Clinton.

But Mr Sanders evinced fresh optimism noting that next on the campaign road are some liberal-leaning northeastern and Midwestern states where he should be competitive, including during April, New York and Pennsylvania and also Wisconsin, which holds its primary on 5 April.

“We are on a path toward victory,” Mr Sanders told a Saturday evening crowd in Madison, Wisconsin, referring to his Alaska and Washington wins.  The results from Hawaii didn’t come in until the early hours of this morning.  “It is hard for anybody to deny that our campaign has the momentum.”

In an interview with the Associated Press, he stressed the importance of having voting in the southern states behind him. “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.”  Yet for Mr Sanders it is hard at this point to separate wishful from positive thinking.

Mr Sanders is basing his ambitions for winning Wisconsin on his unexpected victory in Michigan almost a month ago.  Both states share a Midwestern mindset forged by years of declining industrial output and a struggling working class.

He is also holding out hope for New York, where his highly liberal platform, offering free state college education and healthcare for all, could resonate strongly, especially in vote-rich New York City.   A loss in New York, which votes on 19 April, could be debilitating for Mrs Clinton who represented the state for two terms in the US Senate after her husband, Bill Clinton, left the White House.

Without the super-delegates taken into account, Mrs Clinton holds a delegate lead of 1,243 to 975 over Mr Sanders, according to an AP analysis.  Include those super-delegates and the picture worsens for the Vermont Senator who trails 1,004 to 1,712 for the former first lady.

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