Democratic presidential hopeful Hillary Rodham Clinton speaks to supporters at a campaign event at La Escuelita School in Oakland, California on May 6, 2016. Clinton told the crowd, "I will do everything I can to make sure the presumptive nominee of the Republican Party never gets near the White House." Photo by Khaled Sayed/UPI | License Photo
FRANKFORT, Ky., May 17 (UPI) -- Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton got a narrow victory in Kentucky and challenger Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders an easy one in Oregon in Tuesday's Democratic primaries.
The split was a de facto win for Clinton as she tries to run out the clock on Sanders while preserving her lead in the delegate count.
"We just won Kentucky!" Clinton's official account tweeted. "Thanks to everyone who turned out. We're always stronger united."
The word "united" being a buzzword indicating Clinton is already trying to get Sanders' supporters behind her for the fall.
Sanders spoke to a large crowd in Carson, Calif., saying he had eaten into Clinton's support in the state where she soundly beat then-Sen. Barack Obama in 2008.
"It appears tonight we're going to end up with about half of the delegates," he said. "This is in a sense the beginning of the final push to win California."
Despite the mathematical unlikelihood of him being able to catch Clinton, Sanders vowed to stay in the race until "the last ballot is cast."
Clinton's win was a squeaker with 46.8 percent to Sanders' 46.3 percent in Kentucky. In Oregon, Sanders was declared the victor with 54.5 percent to Clinton's 45.5 percent with about of 75 percent precincts reporting.
The split, despite any campaign rhetoric, was unsatisfactory for both camps. Sanders' victory was not enough to make a notable dent in Clinton's lead and Clinton's inability to put away Sanders takes time, money and resources away from her ability to focus on presumptive GOP nominee Donald Trump for the fall.
Unlike all other 49 states, Oregonians vote only by mail. Voters send ballots two to three weeks prior to the vote and can send it back by mail or they can also drop off the ballot at polling locations on election day.
The mathematical reality is Sanders fell far short of what he needed to help meet his campaign's goal, which is to overtake Clinton in the race for pledged delegates by the time voting ends in June.
To do so, Sanders needs to win about two-thirds of the remaining pledged delegates. Democratic primary rules assign delegates proportional to a candidate's share of the vote, meaning whether Kentucky goes for Clinton or Sanders, if it is by a small margin the delegate gap will remain essentially unchanged, and another state closer to the June 7 finish line.