PHILADELPHIA (AP) — Hillary Clinton added at least three more states to her victory column Tuesday night, strengthening what’s rapidly becoming an all-but-unstoppable march to the Democratic presidential nomination.
The Democratic front-runner expanded her sizable delegate lead with wins in Maryland, Pennsylvania and Delaware. But Bernie Sanders stopped her from sweeping the night with a win in Rhode Island. The primary in Connecticut remained too close to call.
Already, Clinton can lose every remaining primary by a wide margin and still capture her party’s nomination, according to an Associated Press analysis.
A clean sweep Tuesday would likely foreclose Bernie Sanders’ already narrow path to the nomination. Still, the Vermont senator continues to attract tens of thousands to his rallies and raise millions of dollars online. He’s vowing to stay in the race through the last primary contest in June.
Sanders turned his focus to coming primary contests, spending the evening in West Virginia, which votes next month. He must win 73 percent of the remaining delegates to clinch the Democratic nomination.
“With your help, we’re going to win here in West Virginia,” he told several thousand supporters gathered in Huntington.
Clinton, meanwhile, spent Tuesday in Pennsylvania and Indiana — two states her campaign believes could be critical in the fall election.
After exchanging sharp barbs with Sanders earlier this month, she barely mentioned him in the run-up to Tuesday’s contests, underscoring her campaign’s growing confidence in her primary standing. Instead, she turned her attention to trying to unify a fractious Democratic party.
“I am going to do everything I can to unify our country over all the lines that divide us,” Clinton said in Mishawaka, Indiana, on Tuesday.
In exit polls conducted in Connecticut, Pennsylvania and Maryland, less than a fifth of Democratic voters said they would not support Clinton if she gets the nomination.
In a town hall on MSNBC on Monday night, Clinton questioned the idea that she would need to adopt parts of Sanders’ platform to win over his supporters, saying that she did not make demands when she lost the primary to President Barack Obama eight years ago.
“We got to the end in June and I did not put down conditions. I didn’t say, ‘You know what, if Sen. Obama does W, Y, and Z maybe I’ll support him,” Clinton said.
Sanders is not committing to easing Clinton’s path. Senior adviser Tad Devine said that campaign would “wait and see what the numbers are” Tuesday before making any decisions about strategy going forward.
But there were signs that some of his supporters were beginning to accept that he might not make it all the way to the White House.
Charles Chamberlain, head of a liberal group backing Sanders, said the question isn’t whether the senator would win delegates. “It’s whether the Democratic establishment is going to bring our party together by embracing our fight,” Chamberlain said.
Democratic voters say the closely contested primary has excited the party. In Pennsylvania, about seven in 10 voters in Pennsylvania said the primary has energized the party rather than divided it, according to the exit polls conducted for The Associated Press and television networks by Edison Research.
Among Democrats, Clinton is 82 percent of the way to capturing the Democratic nomination with 1,946 delegates to Sanders’ 1,192. Those totals include both pledged delegates from primaries and caucuses and superdelegates, the party insiders who can back the candidate of their choice regardless of how their state votes. It takes 2,383 to win the Democratic nomination.
Lerer reported from Washington.
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