Sanders wins in Washington, Alaska

  • 27/03/2016
Presidential hopeful Bernie Sanders (Reuters)
Presidential hopeful Bernie Sanders (Reuters)

Vermont senator Bernie Sanders has won overwhelming victories in the Democratic primaries of Washington state and Alaska this morning, chipping away at Hillary Clinton's lead in the race to become the party's candidate for the White House.

Along with the yet-to-be-called Hawaii primary also being held today, Sanders was aiming for a sweep of the three Western states, that would help drive his bid to overtake Clinton and stave off calls from Democratic leaders that he should wrap up his bid in the name of party unity.

Sanders told an exuberant crowd in Madison, Wisconsin, the wins are "what momentum is about", and urged them to support him in the upcoming Wisconsin primary.

"We are making significant inroads in Secretary Clinton's lead and ... we have a path to victory," Sanders told cheering, chanting supporters in Madison, Wisconsin.

"It is hard for anybody to deny that our campaign has the momentum."

Clinton, the former secretary of state, has increasingly turned her attention toward a potential November 8 general election showdown against Republican front-runner Donald Trump, claiming she is on the path to wrapping up the nomination.

Heading into today's voting, she led Sanders by about 300 pledged delegates in the race for the 2,382 delegates needed to win the nomination at July's convention. Adding in the support of superdelegates -- party leaders who are free to back any candidate -- she has 1,690 delegates to 946 for Sanders.

Sanders needs to win up to two-thirds of the remaining delegates to catch Clinton, who will keep piling up delegates even when she loses under a Democratic Party system that awards delegates proportionally in all states.

"These wins will help him raise more funds for the next few weeks but I don't think it changes the overall equation," says Democratic strategist Jim Manley, a Clinton supporter. "Hillary Clinton has too big a lead."

But Sanders has repeatedly said he is staying in the race until the convention, pointing to big crowds at his rallies and high voter turnout among young and first-time voters as proof of his viability.

Sanders has energised the party's liberal base and young voters with his calls to rein in Wall Street and fight income inequality, a message that played well in liberal Washington and the other Western states. Sanders won in Utah and Idaho earlier this week.

The Democratic race now moves to contests in Wisconsin on April 5 and in New York on April 19.

No states are holding Republican nominating contests this Easter weekend, a race in which Donald Trump holds a lead over the remaining rivals US Senator Ted Cruz of Texas and Ohio Governor John Kasich.

Sanders received a positive boost on social media yesterday after a bird landed on the lectern he was speaking from at a rally in Portland, Oregon.

The feathered friend sparked huge delight in the crowd, in Sanders himself and on Twitter, where #BirdieSanders quickly began to trend.

Reuters / Newshub.