Bernie Sanders wins Washington, Alaska Democratic caucuses

By Eric DuVall  |  Updated March 26, 2016 at 7:20 PM
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MADISON, Wis., March 26 (UPI) -- Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders will win Democratic presidential caucuses in Washington state and Alaska by wide margins over his opponent, front-runner Hillary Clinton.

With a little more than one-third of the vote counted, CNN and The New York Times have called the races for Sanders.

Speaking in Madison, Wisc., the next state to vote on the primary calendar, Sanders delivered a sharp attack on Clinton, point to his campaign's reliance on small donations from average Americans, saying he and not the Democratic front-runner, is the best candidate to run against Republicans in the general election.

"We chose not to start a super PAC and collect money from the billionaire class on Wall Street. Unlike Secretary Clinton, we have done it a different way," Sanders said. "Not money from Wall Street or the drug companies or the fossil fuel industry, but the middle class of this country."

In both Washington and Alaska, Sanders appears to have rolled up a whopping 3-to-1 margin over Clinton.

The Seattle Times reports heavy turnout in several precincts in the city and what overwhelming support for Sanders, who was favored to win the state. In one Seattle Town Hall precinct, the room used for caucusing holds 900 and was not big enough to accommodate all the voters who showed up.

Hawaii, which also votes Saturday, has not reported results yet, but it is also expected to be a good state for Sanders.

Despite a day that could see Sanders go three-for-three, Clinton still holds a big lead in the delegate count. Sanders will cut into that lead with Saturday's results, but still remains on an uphill climb to defeat Clinton in the pledged delegate count ahead of the Democratic convention in Philadelphia this summer.

Sanders' success was largely expected Saturday. He has performed well in caucus states, where typically only the most politically attuned voters show up. It is testament to his campaign's ability to organize supporters and get them to the polls in smaller, often mostly rural states. Also, in Washington and Alaska, the voting population is overwhelmingly white, compared to other states that have significant minority populations. Clinton has fared best in states with diverse populations. Sanders has won mostly in states where whites are a strong majority of voters.

Sanders' wife, Jane, flew to Alaska this week to conduct a town hall on her husband's behalf, a trip that endeared Sanders to many voters there, unaccustomed to in-person campaigning from a candidate or a top surrogate.

Clinton did not campaigned personally in Alaska or Hawaii, nor has her husband, the former president, or their daughter, Chelsea. All three made swings through Washington state for campaign and fundraising events.

In Hawaii, Sanders has the high-profile support of a rising political star in Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, a female Iraq war combat veteran who quit her position as vice chair of the Democratic National Committee to endorse his campaign. She cut a powerful new commercial airing in the state, showing her surfing and speaking emotionally about his opposition to the Iraq war, which Clinton supported.

There are 101 pledged delegates at stake in Washington, 16 in Alaska and 25 in Hawaii.

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