WASHINGTON: A buoyant Bernie Sanders said Sunday he has the momentum as he attempts to claw back Hillary Clinton’s handsome lead in the race for the Democratic presidential nomination, after scoring a trio of big wins.
The Vermont senator, a self-described democratic socialist, breathed fresh life into his campaign for the White House with a clean sweep in caucuses on Saturday in the western US states of Alaska, Hawaii and Washington.
In Washington — the biggest prize at the weekend with 101 delegates up for grabs — Sanders blitzed Clinton with an estimated 72 percent of the vote, against 28 percent of the long-time frontrunner, according to US news networks.
In the wider context of their battle for the Democratic presidential ticket Sanders’ Saturday success barely dents Clinton’s formidable lead — she now has 1,733 delegates, including superdelegates who are unelected by voters, to Sanders’ 1,039, according to a CNN count.
To win the Democratic nomination at the July convention in Philadelphia, 2,383 delegates are needed.
It means that the delegate math still dramatically favors Clinton, a former first lady and secretary of state, in large part because Democrats allocate delegates proportionally by state, making it all but impossible for Sanders to overtake Clinton.
But the 74-year-old Sanders, who has called for nothing short of “a revolution” and captured the imagination of younger voters in particular, said he now has the impetus going into another bruising round of primary and caucus contests next month.
“We won six out of seven contests in the last 11 days. We’ve cut secretary Clinton’s lead by a third during that period of time,” a triumphant Sanders told the ABC news program “This Week.”
“Clearly we have the momentum,” he added, echoing the same sentiment on CNN, where he also declared: “We think we have a path toward victory.”
“The South is the most conservative part of America,” he added. “We did not do well there. Secretary Clinton gained a lot of delegates. We’re out of the South and heading to the West Coast, which is the most progressive part of America.”
All to play for?
Sanders has drawn strong support from voters with a populist message that rails against police brutality, a too-low minimum wage, soaring student debt and other societal ills.
In particular, millennials and first-time voters have been flocking to Sanders’ message of economic equality, universal health care, and his call to reduce the influence of billionaires on the campaign finance system.
Sanders also pointed to a series of national polls that show him consistently doing better than Clinton against Donald Trump, Ted Cruz or Ohio governor John Kasich — the three Republicans who remain in the hunt for their party’s nomination.
“A lot of superdelegates pledged to secretary Clinton, but when they begin to look at the reality… in poll after poll we are beating Donald Trump by much larger margins than is secretary Clinton,” he told CNN.
Wisconsin becomes the next state to hold primaries, on April 5, but Clinton — who polls particularly well among minority groups and hammered Sanders in the US South — appears to already have shifted her focus toward November’s general election.
At the moment that will most likely pit her against Trump, who is streaking away with the Republican nomination.
Clinton, who remains firmly in command in the Democratic race despite a discernible lack of voter trust, was keeping a noticeably low profile after Saturday’s heavy losses.
That did not stop Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus weighing in on her.
“Hillary Clinton’s repeated stumbles at this stage of the race are another reminder of her deeply flawed candidacy,” he said, alluding to her defeat for the Democratic nomination last time out to Barack Obama and questioning her record while chief US diplomat.