WASHINGTON, March 5 (UPI) -- Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders defeated former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton Saturday night in Democratic caucuses in Kansas and Nebraska, while Clinton scored a big win in the Louisiana primary.
Sanders had double-digit wins against Clinton in both Kansas and Nebraska, while Clinton was quickly projected to win Louisiana, holding a 50-point lead from the first returns in the state's primary.
In addition to the Democratic primary debate Sunday night in Flint, Michigan, Democratic voters in Maine will hit the polls for their caucuses.
Nebraska officials announced Sanders had an 11-point lead with about 75 percent of the vote counted, winning 54.77 percent to 45.23 percent. State officials said they were surprised by the large absentee ballot request, three-quarters of which were returned and counted. In Kansas, Sanders finished with 67.7 percent of the vote to Clinton's 32.3 percent.
Caucus sites in Kansas were reportedly crowded and featured long lines. Part of the reason for packed Democratic caucus sites was a smaller number of them, resulting in lines as long as a quarter-mile, the Kansas City Star reported.
Clinton was expected to win big in Louisiana, with FiveThirtyEight giving her a 99 percent chance of winning the state because of its large African-American population -- similar to predictions made about her performance in South Carolina. Sanders was expected to do well in Nebraska and Kansas, which are somewhat less diverse.
At a rally in Michigan, Clinton focused on the general election, criticizing the Republican back-and-forth during their debates and on the campaign trail, which has grown increasingly vulgar and childish in recent weeks.
"We have to win this election," Clinton said. "And we all know the stakes keep getting higher and the rhetoric we're hearing from the other side keeps sinking lower."
Clinton reiterated the message of breaking barriers and bringing people together she has increasingly make the focus of her speeches, which she says contrasts with the messages of Republicans.
"Diversity is a strength, not a weakness," Clinton said. "Instead of trying to divide America into us and them, lets try to find a little more love in our hearts for one another and respect one another."
Sanders continued to hammer Clinton about super PACs that support her candidacy, saying one had raised $15 million from Wall Street to support her campaign.
"When I talk about some of the differences between me and Secretary Clinton, this is one of them," Sanders said, questioning the amount of money being poured into the election by wealthy, prominent supporters, specifically mentioning the Koch brothers.
"When you have one family and a few other billionaires spending more money in an election than the Democratic or Republican party, that is not democracy, that is oligarchy," Sanders said. "And we are going to stop them."
Sanders, who is behind in the delegate count, will gain delegates from his wins tonight, however still trails Clinton by a large margin. If superdelegates are included, Clinton has a lead of 1,066 to 432 over Sanders thus far in the primary process, though many who have pledged to support Clinton can vote for either candidate at the nominating convention in July.