Democratic voters had a message for Hillary Clinton on Saturday: It’s not over yet.
The front-runner may possess a substantial lead, support from elected officials, and the backing of the party establishment. But in the three states where voters caucused on Saturday, they cast their ballots for Bernie Sanders by huge margins. In Hawaii, with most votes tallied, he chalked up 71 percent; in Washington, he held 73 percent; and in Alaska, he claimed 82 percent support.
Clinton has, in recent months, embraced many elements of Sanders’s platform. She’s adopted the language of intersectional politics. She’s echoed his skepticism of trade deals. She’s insisted she’ll be tougher on Wall Street than he’d be. But so far, at least, she’s had little success in winning over his supporters, and she’s struggled to inspire a similar degree of enthusiasm among her own backers.
Sanders’s voters seem undeterred by Clinton’s advantages. “I feel like probably for the first time since I’ve been voting I connect with somebody I really believe in and that I trust,” one supporter told the Seattle Times. Saturday’s vote suggests she’s not alone. Party officials in Washington said that at least 225,000 voters showed up, rivaling the record turnout of 2008; the 10,600 who voted in Alaska exceeded that state’s 2008 tally; and the 33,716 in Hawaii, while below the 2008 level, included 7,000 new Democrats registered since late last year.
Sanders won from wall to wall. He took every county in Washington, and in Alaska, he posted double-digit margins in all 40 districts.
Primary day found an ebullient Sanders addressing an enormous crowd in Madison, Wisconsin, where the next contest on the Democratic calendar takes place on April 5th. “Don’t let anybody tell you we can’t win the nomination or win the general election,” Sanders roared. “We’re going to do both of those things.”
Most insurgent candidates garner more enthusiasm than dollars, and struggle to find enough resources to compete across the map. That’s not a problem for Sanders. In January, he stunned political observers by outraising Clinton, pulling in $20 million to her $15 million. She did twice as well the next month, raising $30 million, only to find that Sanders had brought in an astonishing $43.5 million. More impressively still, Sanders has raised those astronomical sums mostly by relying on small-dollar donations.
There’s every reason to believe that Saturday’s triumphs will produce a fresh infusion of cash. Candidates tend to find principled reasons to keep running so long as they have the resources to do so; they tend to find equally principled reasons to withdraw once their checks start bouncing. By that measure, the Sanders campaign is far from finished.
Clinton entered the night some 300 pledged delegates ahead of Sanders, a margin built mostly by winning big in southern states. Before tonight, Sanders’s wins had mostly come in smaller states, or in contests like Michigan, where Clinton stayed close. That’s what made his victory in Washington not just impressive, but important. Sanders won across the state, and seems likely to take the lion’s share of its 101 pledged delegates, narrowing Clinton’s lead significantly.
Her supporters point to her commanding lead among the party’s superdelegates—the party insiders and elected officials who will make the trip to Philadelphia without being bound by the results of primaries. But that’s not how Clinton wants to win the nomination, and if it came down to it, many of them might hesitate to overturn the decision of the pledged delegates.
Although he narrowed Clinton’s lead, though, Sanders has yet to alter the underlying dynamics of the race—something he must do if he still hopes to secure the party’s nomination. He performs best in states like those that voted today—those which hold caucuses and not primaries, and in which black and Hispanic voters comprise only a small portion of the Democratic electorate. But that won’t be enough to close the gap with Clinton, unless he can broaden his appeal.
Polls show Clinton and Sanders in a tight battle in Wisconsin, which holds its primary a week from Tuesday. It’s the sort of state that Sanders must not merely win, but win by a large enough margin to continue to erode Clinton’s lead. “With your support coming here in Wisconsin, we have a path toward victory,” he told the crowd in Madison. And on Saturday night, at least, that sounded plausible.
Waiting up for the Hawaii results? You’re not alone. Stephanie Ohigashi, the state party chair, told the Honolulu Star-Advertiser that polling places stayed open until no voters showed up for half an hour. As of 4:30 p.m, she said, all locations had closed. The voters are being tallied; she expects the results to be released between 7 and 8 p.m. local time—that’s 1 to 2 a.m. Eastern.
In Alaska, meanwhile, all the votes are in, and Sanders claimed 81.6 percent support. In Washington, 94 percent of caucus sites have reported, and he’s maintained 72.6 percent of the vote.
Bernie Sanders is having a very good night. With almost three-quarters of the vote tallied in Washington and Alaska, he’s up by close to 80 percent and more than 70 percent, respectively. Clinton began the night ahead by roughly 300 pledged delegates, and if those margins hold, Sanders will draw some 50 delegates closer. And that’s before the third state weighs in.
Voting is underway in Hawaii, where officials reportedly expect turnout to match or exceed the 37,519 Democrats who came out to support native son Barack Obama in 2008. Voters lined up hours before the precincts opened at 1 p.m., and balloting will continue until those lines end. There’s no official cut-off. The state party also holds early results until every vote from across the islands is tallied, and then releases the final totals, so it may be some time before there’s any formal indication of who’s prevailed.
The state hands nine of its 25 delegates to the statewide winner, and then both of its two congressional districts split their eight delegates proportionately. Clinton will be relying on the backing of two large unions, and much of the state’s congressional delegation, to hold the line. But party officials report more than 7,000 new members since late last year, according to the Honolulu Star-Advertiser, in what’s widely seen as a sign of support for Sanders. Voters can also declare their affiliation at the polling places today and be eligible to vote. So the Sanders campaign is optimistic that it can make a clean sweep of the day’s events.
As Matt noted, in Sanders’s victory speech after his wins in Alaska and Washington, the Vermont senator made a good argument for staying in the race. Sanders drew contrasts between himself and Clinton, starting with his latest poll numbers. “We went from 60 points below Secretary Clinton,” he said, “to one point up … And unlike Secretary Clinton, we have done it in a different way ... with 6 million individual campaign contributions, not money from Wall Street or the drug companies or the fossil-fuel industry, but from the working people of this country.” Then, Sanders turned to his general-election prospects, saying that, against Trump, Clinton “beats Trump by 12—we do by 20!”
“Hillary Clinton and I agree it is imperative that no Republican make it to the Oval Office. Where we do not agree … is one of our campaigns has created energy and enthusiasm and will generate huge voter turnout in November. And that campaign is our campaign!”
Then Sanders pivoted to the Republicans: “The conduct of this Republican contest is literally beyond belief,” he said before comparing their campaigns to “a lunchroom food fight.”
Caucusing at Seattle’s town hall overflowed on Saturday.
It’s a very, very good night for Bernie Sanders. “We are making significant inroads in Secretary Clinton’s lead, and we have, with your support coming here in Wisconsin, a path toward victory,” he told an exuberant crowd in Madison on Saturday night after winning two states on Western Saturday. The Vermont senator thanked Alaskans for his resounding victory there and predicted a similar one in Washington.
Then, a few minutes later, the networks called the Evergreen State for him. “Are you ready for a news alert?” he asked the crowd. They roared. “We just won the state of Washington!” he declared. The crowd roared even louder.
Clinton’s sweep of the South gave her a sizable delegate lead, one that could very well be insurmountable. But Sanders argued the momentum was on his side. “We knew things were going to improve as we headed West,” referring to blowout victories last week in Idaho and Utah. By repeating those landslides tonight, Sanders made a convincing case to stay in the race. And his victory rally tonight pointed to his next target: Wisconsin, a union-oriented Midwestern state—and its 89 delegates. Voters will head to the polls there on April 5.
Bernie Sanders takes Washington state. “Now that’s momentum!” the candidate said to a cheering crowd in Wisconsin, the next battleground.
With a complete and staggering lack of self-awareness, MSNBC just had a lengthy discussion about whether or not respectable media should be covering the Ted Cruz/National Enquirer multiple-mistress sideshow. Should Cruz have responded? Doesn’t he have to since his base is evangelical? Didn’t he look really mad, like actual emotion mad? Why isn’t the media covering all the other tabloid stories out there? The National Enquirer hasn’t been shy about hitting the other candidates. Why are we, here and now, talking about this particular story? Let’s show the viewers at home another shot of the unsourced Cruz/Enquirer spread with those women with black bars over their eyes just waiting to be unmasked. Alas.
Meanwhile, the reporter on the Cruz beat is thrilled to report that Cruz may be changing his mind on that whole pledge to support the Republican nominee no matter what. This reporter apparently has been trying very hard to pin him down on this utterly non-issue, and now, there is movement. There is movement! He’s softening. My question is: Now what, fellow journalist? So Cruz won’t support Trump—what of it? This is a man who wants to patrol Muslim neighborhoods and thinks vending-machine condoms are tantamount to women’s health, but you want to nail him on breaking a promise in light of new information—said information being a nasty personal attack? Why, broadcast media, why?
Also the Democrats are caucusing.
Bernie Sanders wins Alaska, and his supporters in Anchorage are psyched. But the Last Frontier State won’t be Sanders’s last frontier with another 20 states to go. (I’m here all night, folks!)
Bernie Sanders filled Safeco Field in Seattle last night.
In case you see this ad from the Bernie Sanders campaign…
Together. pic.twitter.com/I8ca8foKTP— Bernie Sanders (@BernieSanders) March 26, 2016
...and think to yourself, what in the fresh living heck is this, here’s the backstory. At a campaign rally in Portland, Oregon, a little bird landed on the senator’s podium while he was speaking. At first it looked like he was going to toss the bird some shade and ignore it, but the crowd loved it. Who doesn’t adore tiny woodland creatures and infinite potential for puns, including but not limited to #FeeltheBird and #BirdieSanders?
Sanders faced a moment that has felled many a candidate: the opportunity to make a spontaneous metaphor. He went for it. “I know it doesn’t look like it, but that bird is really a dove, asking us for world peace,” he quipped. Less than 24 hours later, the world has a new meme.
Here's the delegate math in today's three Democratic caucuses, not counting superdelegates, who can vote for whomever they like at the Democratic National Convention this summer:
Alaska: America’s biggest state has only 16 delegates to offer, but two ways to get them. Ten delegates are awarded proportionally within Alaska's sole congressional district, which encompasses the entire state. Whoever wins the state wins the other six delegates outright.
Hawaii: The Aloha State also uses a bifurcated system to allocate its 25 delegates. Nine of them are awarded to the statewide winner. Each of Hawaii's two congressional districts offers eight delegates, which are allocated proportionally.
Washington: Here's where things get interesting. Washington offers a whopping 101 delegates, making it today's big prize. But taking home the lion's share of them won't be easy. Only 34 of the delegates are awarded to the statewide winner.
The remaining 67 delegates are distributed among Washington's ten congressional districts. As in other races today, these congressional district delegates are awarded proportionally. But this time, those distributions among districts are uneven. The rural 4th district only offers four delegates, for example, while the 7th district (which includes most of Seattle) offers 12. Most of the state's districts are clustered along the I-5 Corridor, which runs between Oregon and Canada through big cities like Seattle, Tacoma, and Olympia. Whichever candidate wins there will leave Washington with the biggest delegate haul.
Caucus-goers in Alaska may face long lines and foggy weather. The Alaska Dispatch News reports big turnout in precincts in Anchorage, which accounted for roughly a third of people who participated in the caucuses in 2008, according to the Alaska Democratic Party communications director. The city’s mayor, Ethan Berkowitz, says there are more people in his caucus location than “a plugged net”:
Here's Anchorage Mayor Ethan Berkowitz talking about the situation at the Democratic caucus: pic.twitter.com/hpsqHL7OWF— Alaska Dispatch News (@adndotcom) March 26, 2016
A line stretched out the door and through the parking lot of West High School in Anchorage this morning, as shown in this AP photo:
Washington state is the contest to watch today, with 118 delegates on offer, including the superdelegates. Reporters at The Seattle Times have been gathering early evidence of success for Sanders over Clinton at a handful of precincts around Seattle and Portland.
For example, from a precinct in Vancouver, north of Portland:
A strong tally for Bernie at a senior center in Redmond, a city east of Seattle:
Also: Bernie shirt.
Be advised: Each of the heads featured on her shirt do not count as individual caucus votes.
As voters gathered in Washington, caucuses also began in Alaska, which will award 16 delegates based on today’s results. There’s been little polling in Alaska, but one in January showed that among both Democrats and no party voters, Bernie Sanders was ahead. The state’s largely white electorate might also stand to benefit Sanders, who has struggled to gain traction with minority voters.
In 2008, Hillary Clinton lost Alaska to Obama. Perhaps hoping to avoid that, she set up a campaign office in Anchorage.
Precinct worker Matt Landers works to guide participants to their location before a Democratic caucus in Seattle.
Washington’s Democratic caucuses are underway. Voters lined up across the state to participate—and some appear to be enthusiastic about Bernie Sanders. The Seattle Times reports from one polling location where some people arrived to their caucus sites at 8:30 a.m. local time, with the line stretching 40 people long when the doors opened less than an hour later. It’s perhaps a positive sign for Sanders, who has tended to perform best in caucus states. As Clare notes, Washington is the biggest prize of the day and may provide a much-needed boost for Sanders as he tries to narrow the gap with Hillary Clinton. The state doesn’t appear to be a long shot for Sanders either. He’s thrived off of small campaign contributions—many of which have come from Seattle, according to an analysis.
Alaska and Hawaii also hold their caucuses today, starting at 10 a.m. local time (2 p.m. eastern) and 1 p.m. local time (7 p.m. eastern), respectively.
It’s a showdown between Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton. The Democratic rivals are squaring off on Saturday as Washington, Alaska, and Hawaii hold caucuses. Sanders has the potential to do well since he has tended to perform better in caucus states, which usually reward the kind of grassroots enthusiasm that Sanders excels at ginning up. But he also has the most to prove in the wake of a disappointing defeat in Arizona, and a week that saw Clinton add to her delegate lead.
Sanders’s path to the nomination has narrowed dramatically in recent weeks. Seemingly unfazed, Sanders has vowed to fight on until the Democratic convention, promising his supporters he won’t give up on his promise of political revolution. The challenge for Sanders—and make no mistake, it’s quite a challenge—is that to put up a fight for the nomination, he not only needs to win states consistently, but also by wide margins.
Sanders could be in luck on Saturday. The biggest prize on the map is Washington, where 101 delegates are up for grabs based on the results of the caucus. Sanders has a real shot at emerging as the victor in the largely white, liberal state. And a win in Washington wouldn’t just be significant for the candidate. The Los Angeles Times reports that progressives in Seattle believe a Sanders victory could “send a message to a national party they believe has grown too cozy with corporate interests and too dismissive of progressive concerns.”
The Sanders campaign appears confident, publicly proclaiming that he’s likely to win Washington. “Sanders Sees Path to Victory in Washington,” a campaign press release announced on Thursday. Still, the campaign should take care not to set expectations too high. Sanders needs to create a feeling of momentum to keep supporters engaged. If Sanders predicts a victory that fails to materialize, like he did in Arizona, that could demoralize his loyal fans. There’s a risk of that happening in Washington, a state that Politico describes as “close to a must-win as it gets” for the Sanders campaign.
Clinton has also been fighting it out for support in Washington, but at this point in the race she doesn’t need to fight tooth-and-nail for the nomination as much as she needs to hold onto—and protect—the lead she has already established. Whatever happens on Saturday, there’s also good news for Clinton on the horizon. The map is expected to soon shift back into territory that will benefit her. “After the favorable Sanders stretch ending on April 9, the terrain shifts back to favoring Clinton,” Vox writes. “There's the April 19 primary in New York, where she was senator for eight years, followed by a slate of Democratic establishment-friendly states on April 26 including Pennsylvania and Maryland.” While a string of victories would be a windfall for Sanders on Saturday, even in the best-case scenario, the campaign still faces a steep uphill battle.
— Clare Foran