Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders speaks to supporters in Baltimore last month. Sanders was named the winner in the West Virginia primary on Tuesday. Photo by Molly Riley/UPI | License Photo
CHARLESTON, W.Va., May 10 (UPI) -- Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders will win the Democratic presidential primary in West Virginia, handing a second consecutive defeat to the party's front-runner, Hillary Clinton, multiple media outlets are reporting.
Clinton's defeat in rural West Virginia coal country, projected by NBC News and Fox News, was all but assured last month, when she inartfully described her plans to curb air pollution as putting coal miners "out of business."
The scope of the Sanders victory in West Virginia is underscored by how well Clinton did there eight years ago, when she won over then-Sen. Barack Obama by 40 percentage points.
"I want to take a moment to thank the people of West Virginia for the tremendous victory," Sanders said at a massive campaign rally in Oregon, which votes next week. "I think it ends up being a double-digit victory. This is a state where Hillary Clinton won by over 40 points over Barack Obama in 2008. West Virginia is a working class state and like many other states in this country ... working people are hurting. What the people of West Virginia said tonight, and I believe the people of Oregon and Kentucky will say next week, is we need an economy that works for all of us, not just the 1 percent."
Sanders' victory, while impressive, is largely a moral one. He still trails Clinton by some 300 pledged delegates -- and nearly 800 when factoring in Democratic superdelegates -- and would, according to CNN, need to win roughly two-thirds of the remaining delegates to take a lead into the Democratic convention in Philadelphia this summer.
West Virginia came with a relatively small haul of delegates; Sanders walked away with 16 Tuesday while Clinton netted 11.
With the Democratic Party's rules guaranteeing proportional allocation of delegates in primary contests, all Clinton has to do to maintain her lead is avoid flat-lining in the remaining contests.
Sanders acknowledged the difficult delegate math ahead of him with now just eight states remaining to vote, but renewed his pledge to continue campaigning through the convention, arguing he is the better candidate in a general election.
"Let me be as clear as I can be: We are in this campaign to win the Democratic nomination and we are going to fight for every last vote in Oregon, Kentucky, California, the Dakotas," Sanders said. "Now we fully acknowledge, we are good at arithmetic, we have an uphill climb ahead of us, but we are used to fighting uphill climbs. We have been fighting uphill from the first day of this campaign, when people considered us a fringe candidacy."
Sanders said he plans to continue to press the Democratic superdelegates, backed by polling data that shows he is running stronger against the Republican presumptive presidential nominee, Donald Trump, than Clinton.
"It's not just national polls," Sanders said. "It is state poll, after state poll, after state poll. Just in the last day, two national polls have us beating Trump by bigger margins than Secretary Clinton. Four statewide polls in Pennsylvania, Ohio, Florida and New Hampshire, in every one of those polls, we do better against Trump than does Secretary Clinton."
Clinton was traveling back to her home in New York on Tuesday evening. She did not have any post-election rallies planned.
Earlier in the day, she campaigned in Kentucky, which votes next week. There, she trained her focus on Trump.
"I've got to tell you, I am, if I'm fortunate enough to be the nominee, I am looking forward to debating Donald Trump in the fall. Finally, we've got to unify America. A house divided against itself, as Abraham Lincoln said, cannot stand. We can't be scapegoating and finger-pointing and blaming and demeaning, and degrading, and insulting our fellow Americans."
Trump, who does not face any opposition after his remaining rivals Ted Cruz and John Kasich dropped out of the race last week, was declared the winner in West Virginia immediately after polls closed.
GOP voters in Nebraska also headed to the polls Tuesday. Trump was immediately projected the winner there, and inches closer to the 1,237 delegates needed to win the nomination with those uncontested victories.
Earlier in the day Tuesday, Cruz raised some eyebrows in Republican circles during an interview with conservative radio host Glenn Beck, suggesting that if a Trump protest vote were to bubble up in Nebraska, a state Cruz was widely expected to win before dropping out, that he would consider re-entering the race.
The Nebraska victory for Trump appears to have put that long shot possibility to bed.
The real estate mogul swept all 36 delegates in Nebraska, adding to the three he netted in West Virginia.