- The Washington Times - Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Hillary Clinton dominated the Northeast on Tuesday and racked up big primary wins in Pennsylvania, Delaware, Connecticut and Maryland, leaving Democratic rival Sen. Bernard Sanders with just a consolation prize in Rhode Island and tightening her own grip on the Democratic nod.

Mrs. Clinton’s strong performance, while not unexpected, underscores the fact that she is, once again, the party’s inevitable nominee. She has fended off a surge by Mr. Sanders in which the senator from Vermont won eight out of nine contests heading into last week’s New York primary, fueling speculation that, just as in 2008, victory somehow would slip through Mrs. Clinton’s fingers.

But with a commanding win in the Empire State and her strong showing in Tuesday’s slate of five Northeastern primaries, Mrs. Clinton has squashed Mr. Sanders‘ momentum, and the race now appears hers to lose. The closest fight was in Connecticut, which was called for Mrs. Clinton more than two hours after polls closed.

Speaking to supporters in Philadelphia, Mrs. Clinton said victory is within sight and the Democratic Party must come together after a contentious and unexpectedly protracted primary fight.

“With your help, we’re going to come back to Philadelphia for the Democratic National Convention with the most votes and the most pledged delegates. And we will unify our party to win this election and build an America where we can all rise together, an America where we lift each other up instead of tearing each other down,” she said to a raucous crowd.

In Maryland, the networks called the race just minutes after the polls closed at 8 p.m., based on exit polls that gave Mrs. Clinton a big lead. As of 10:10 p.m., with 42 percent of the vote in, Mrs. Clinton led Mr. Sanders 64 percent to 32 percent.

In Pennsylvania, Mrs. Clinton led Mr. Sanders 57 percent to 42 percent, with 42 percent of the vote in. Polling in the Keystone State before the election showed the former first lady with a double-digit lead.

In Delaware, with 84 percent of the vote in, Mrs. Clinton was ahead 60 percent to 39 percent.

Mr. Sanders‘ silver lining came in Rhode Island. With 85 percent of precincts reporting, Mr. Sanders had 55 percent of the vote to 43 percent for Mrs. Clinton.

Despite the crushing defeats, Mr. Sanders gave no indication that he was bowing out of the race. In a speech to supporters in Huntington, West Virginia, he stressed that, according to most national polls, he still performs better against Republicans such as Donald Trump than does Mrs. Clinton in a November general election matchup.

“The reason that we are doing so much better against Republican candidates is that not only are we winning the overwhelming majority of Democratic voters, but we are winning independent votes and some Republican votes,” he said, attributing his major losses such as last week’s thrashing in New York to the closed-primary system that kept out independent voters who helped fuel his surprise insurgent bid.

“Well, you know what? Those folks and independents all over this country will be voting in November for the next president,” the senator added.

Mrs. Clinton’s victories will build upon her impressive delegate lead.

Heading into Tuesday’s contests, Mrs. Clinton led Mr. Sanders 1,946 to 1,192, according to an Associated Press tally.

Among pledged delegates, she leads 1,428 to 1,153. Among so-called superdelegates — party officials who are free to support either candidate — she leads 519 to 39 for the senator from Vermont.

About 463 delegates were at stake in Tuesday’s primaries. Pennsylvania and Maryland have the lion’s share, with 210 and 118, respectively. It takes 2,383 delegates to claim the nomination, and it’s becoming increasingly unlikely that Mr. Sanders can erase Mrs. Clinton’s lead.

Mrs. Clinton also has won more states and captured more votes across the country than has Mr. Sanders.

Mr. Sanders in recent days has acknowledged that he has, at best, a “narrow path” to claiming the nomination.

But his campaign on Tuesday seemed to subtly change its tune. While he still insists he can overcome Mrs. Clinton in pledged delegates, he is also now stressing that his continued presence in the race is also meant to push his liberal agenda.

“Any victories and any votes we receive, next week in Indiana, and in each state moving forward are a public declaration of support for the values we share,” Mr. Sanders said in a fundraising email to supporters Tuesday afternoon.

No path for Sanders?

Leading Democrats say Mr. Sanders can remain in the race as long as he wants, but they believe his chances of winning are basically zero.

Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, for example, was asked Tuesday whether he believes the senator can overtake Mrs. Clinton.

“No, I do not,” the Nevada Democrat said.

Mr. Sanders‘ progressive supporters suggested that the race now is more about promoting the senator’s values and policy proposals, and whether the party will embrace progressive principles or shift to the political middle as November approaches.

“The question right now isn’t whether the movement behind Bernie Sanders is going to continue winning delegates and states in the weeks ahead,” said Charles Chamberlain, executive director of the liberal PAC Democracy for America, which has endorsed Mr. Sanders. “It’s whether the Democratic establishment is going to bring our party together by embracing our fight for a political revolution or tell us to sit down, shut up and fall in line, likely costing Democrats nationwide the critical votes we’ll need in the general election.”

Mrs. Clinton on Tuesday night made it a point to mention many of the central themes of Mr. Sanders‘ campaign, signaling that, at least in her mind, it’s time to begin uniting the party in preparation for what is sure to be a nasty general election campaign.

“We all agree wages are too low and inequality is too high, that Wall Street can never again be allowed to threaten Main Street,” she said. “We Democrats agree that college should be affordable to all and student debt shouldn’t hold anyone back. We Democrats agree that every single American should and must have quality, affordable health care. We agree that our next president must keep our country safe, keep our troops out of another costly ground war in the Middle East. And we Democrats agree that climate change is an urgent threat, and it requires an aggressive response.”

Mrs. Clinton’s victory in Maryland largely can be attributed to her experience as first lady, as a senator from New York and as President Obama’s first secretary of state. Democrats across the state also say they are looking for a candidate who will continue the path Mr. Obama has laid out.

“I think President Obama has done a great job, so I support those who support what he’s done,” said Larry Frazier, 54, a management consultant from Gaithersburg who cast his vote for Mrs. Clinton.

Other Maryland Democrats said they were turned off by Mr. Sanders‘ recent attacks on Mrs. Clinton, including questions about her judgment and qualifications to be president.

“I liked Bernie up until a couple of weeks ago. I didn’t like the way he came across about Clinton,” said Virginia S. Walker, 78, a retired federal government employee from Gaithersburg. “I thought he had lost his mind.”

But Tuesday also brought more proof that Mrs. Clinton can’t necessarily count on many of Mr. Sanders‘ passionate supporters to show up for her in the fall.

Justin Robb, a 25-year-old guitar teacher who lives just outside Rockville, said he absolutely will not vote for Mrs. Clinton and isn’t sure whether he will vote at all.

“I really don’t know what I would do if that happened. I think she’s just plain evil,” Mr. Robb said before he voted for Mr. Sanders.

Like some other Democrats, Mr. Robb said he supports Mr. Sanders‘ socialist agenda.

“The word ‘socialism’ doesn’t scare me. In my opinion, it’s really ignorant to kick this guy to the curb just because of that word,” he said.

Other Democrats agree. Darien Fillette, a 22-year-old pharmacy technician from Delaware, said she voted for Mr. Sanders because she believes the country should “bring more socialist viewpoints in.”

“We should be taking away from the 1 percent and giving a leg up to all the welfare people,” she said, adding that she didn’t even consider voting for Mrs. Clinton.

S.A. Miller contributed to this report.

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