Wall Street Journal
By Peter Nicholas and Colleen Mccain Nelson
March 27, 2016
Bernie Sanders swept Saturday’s Democratic caucuses, cutting into front-runner Hillary Clinton’s formidable lead in delegates.
Following the Vermont senator’s victories in Alaska and Washington, the Associated Press declared Mr. Sanders the winner of the Hawaii Democratic caucuses.
Washington was by far the day’s biggest prize, with a total of 101 pledged delegates up for grabs, more than twice that of the other two states combined.
In Washington, Mr. Sanders won 72.7% of the vote, while Mrs. Clinton took 27.1%. In Alaska, Mr. Sanders led Mrs. Clinton 81.6% to 18.4%, while in Hawaii, Mr. Sanders garnered 69.8% to Mrs. Clinton’s 30%.
Mr. Sanders spoke to tens of thousands of supporters in Washington heading into the caucuses.
Both Mrs. Clinton and her husband, former President Bill Clinton, also campaigned in the state in the run-up to the caucuses. Clinton campaign officials seemed to recognize that it was facing long odds. In 2008, Mrs. Clinton lost Washington to then-Sen. Barack Obama. The campaign’s goal was to keep Mr. Sanders’s victory margin and delegate pickup as low as possible.
Earlier in the day, Mr. Sanders won in Alaska, which offered just 16 pledged delegates. Still, despite the state being the day’s smallest prize, neither the Vermont senator nor Mrs. Clinton wrote off the caucuses.
In the run-up to the contest, the former secretary of state called into a radio station and talked about a time after graduating from college when she briefly worked at a fish cannery in Alaska.
“And think about this,” she reportedly told the station, “I’m the only candidate who’s ever actually worked in Alaska. So, hooray!”
Mr. Sanders, meanwhile, opened a handful of offices in the state, hoping to string together enough victories that might give superdelegates a reason to rethink their allegiance to Mrs. Clinton.
Meanwhile, Hawaii is an impractical place for a candidate visit because of its distance from the mainland. Neither Mrs. Clinton nor Mr. Sanders traveled there in advance of the caucuses.
But Mr. Sanders aired TV ads aimed at introducing himself to Hawaii voters, and he also showcased the endorsement of a native daughter, U.S. Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D., Hawaii).
In February, Ms. Gabbard said she resigned her spot as Democratic National Committee vice chairwoman so she could campaign for Mr. Sanders.
Hawaii has only 25 pledged delegates at stake, but it is one of a series of Western states that the Sanders campaign viewed as winnable and important to mounting a comeback against Mrs. Clinton.
Mr. Sanders has a steep uphill battle to gain enough delegates to become the nominee. Mrs. Clinton entered Saturday’s contests with a lead of more than 300 among pledged delegates.
As Mr. Sanders lost ground to Mrs. Clinton in earlier contests, his campaign asked voters for patience. His advisers have argued that the second half of the primary season, which started this week, would take the race to more favorable terrain—namely, Western states that are more amenable to Mr. Sanders’s candidacy and message.
While Mr. Sanders’s victories in Idaho and Utah on March 22 showed strength in Western states with small Hispanic or African-American populations, Mrs. Clinton has tended to dominate in states with large minority populations.
Hawaii’s population is more than one-third Asian-American, along with sizable white and native Hawaiian populations. Alaska is almost 15% Native American. And in Washington state, Yakima and Grant counties have large Hispanic populations of 40% or more.
Under Democratic rules, delegates are awarded proportionally based on results, not winner take all, so Mr. Sanders not only needs to win the states, but win by large margins, to close the delegate gap with Mrs. Clinton.
Meanwhile, a new skirmish over the Democratic debate schedule was brewing, with the two camps unable to reach agreement on dates and locations for the final matchups. Both campaigns consented to face off two more times, once in April and again in May. But several weeks after that pledge was made, the Democratic National Committee still describes all the details of the ninth and 10th debates as “to be determined.”
Party officials say they are waiting for the Clinton and Sanders teams to decide timing and locations. Clinton campaign officials say they are waiting to hear from the DNC. And Sanders aides say they just want to make sure the debates happen.
Team Sanders wants to hold the next debate in New York, a delegate-rich state that will hold its primary on April 19. The Clinton camp has declined, Mr. Sanders’s campaign manager Jeff Weaver said, and has advocated for a debate in Pennsylvania, where primary voters will go to the polls on April 26.
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