Hillary Clinton Takes Arizona to Widen Delegate Lead over Bernie Sanders

Clinton's win in the largest state voting on Tuesday puts a dent in the comeback Sanders is hoping for in Western states.
March 23, 2016, 3:30am
Photo by Lynne Sladky/AP

Editor's note: After this article was published, Sanders scored victories in Idaho and Utah to win more delegates across the three states than Clinton Tuesday night.

Coming off of five straight wins in all of the states that voted last week, Hillary Clinton took home the crown jewel of Tuesday's primary contests: Arizona.

The former secretary of state scored a victory in Arizona, where 75 delegates were up for grabs, to widen a near insurmountable delegate lead over her rival for the Democratic nomination. While votes are still being counted, she currently leaders Senator Bernie Sanders 60-37 percent.

Advertisement

The victory for Clinton also undercuts the comeback Sanders and his team are counting on as the pair head into a series of primaries and caucuses in Western states. The Vermont senator hopes that these states will help his campaign to rebound from losses suffered so far in the East and South.

Sanders is favored in Tuesday's other two contests, Idaho and Utah, but those states hold fewer delegates combined than Arizona. Both contests remain too close to call.

Related: Bernie Sanders Thinks He Can Win the West, but That Probably Won't Be Enough

Clinton is expected to speak at a rally in Seattle, Washington, later this evening about the race. She will also use the opportunity to address the deadly bomb blasts in Brussels, news of which broke earlier on Tuesday, and hone her attacks on Republican frontrunner Donald Trump, according to NBC News.

For days the candidates had been campaigning heavily in Arizona, alongside their respective Latino surrogates who have introduced Sanders and Clinton at rallies and appeared in radio and television ads for the campaigns. Latinos make up roughly 30 percent of Arizona's population and 22 percent of eligible voters in the state.

Clinton in particular has been endorsed by dozens of prominent Latino leaders, including at least five of Arizona's nine Democratic superdelegates, in the lead up to the primary. She previously won Arizona against Barack Obama in 2008.

Advertisement

"The various groups that make up our party have yet to demonstrate the ability to unite behind any candidate not named Barack Obama," Rep. Ruben Gallego, a Democratic superdelegate in the state, wrote in an op-ed in November. "Secretary Clinton not only represents the best chance for progressives to continue to hold the White House, she also demonstrates the strongest ability to maintain the broad and diverse Obama coalition that brought us wins for health care, marriage equality, and the environment."

The closed primary format may have also hurt Sanders's chances by preventing independent voters from voting in the Democratic primary. The senator has been polling well with independents, who make up roughly a third of Arizona's electorate. There are actually slightly more Arizona voters registered as "other" than there are registered Democrats or Republicans.

Donald Trump Wins Arizona Primary, Adding to Delegate Lead

The day before the primary, Sanders said that while his campaign was well positioned to take Utah and Idaho, it would be a tough fight for him to win Arizona.

"Now we're moving to another part of the country. Just tomorrow, I'm here in Utah, there is going to be a caucus here. We think we're going to do well. We think we're going to do well in Idaho. We think we have a chance, it's going to be tough, in Arizona," Sanders told CNN's Anderson Cooper Monday night.

The candidates now head into three primary contests in Alaska, Hawaii, and Washington, all of which are thought to favor Sanders, on Saturday.

Follow Liz Fields on Twitter: @lianzifields