Sen. Bernard Sanders of Vermont is looking to jump-start his lagging presidential campaign this weekend, with the aim to win three of the four state Democratic contests, hoping to create momentum moving into Tuesday night’s must-win Michigan primary.
On Saturday, Mr. Sanders seemed on track to accomplish his goals. The Kansas Democratic Party called the state’s caucuses in his favor, and multiple news reports had him winning Nebraska. With 79 percent of the vote in from Nebraska, Mr. Sanders was at 55 percent to former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s 45 percent.
Mr. Sanders’ team is also looking to win in Maine on Sunday. As expected, Mrs. Clinton won Louisiana on Saturday, where about half of the electorate is black. Mrs. Clinton has been dominating in the polls with black voters, where more than 80 percent of them have cast their ballots in her direction.
Mr. Sanders, on the other hand, has done well in states with largely white populations who identify with his populist economic message. In the seven states he has won, they all rank among the 18 whitest in the country.
On Saturday, Mr. Sanders renewed his pledge to take his campaign all the way to the convention.
“We have now won double-digit victories from New England to the Rocky Mountains to the Great Plains to the Midwest,” he said in a statement. “Democrats in Kansas today added to a column of double-digit victories in Minnesota, Colorado, Oklahoma, New Hampshire and Vermont.
“We have the momentum,” he said. “We have a path toward victory. Our campaign is just getting started and we are going all the way to the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia.”
Democrats had 109 delegates at stake Saturday night, and Mr. Sanders needed to capture a majority of them to have a viable path to the White House. After Saturday night’s contests, Mrs. Clinton led Mr. Sanders 1,104 to 446 in the delegate race. Either needs 4,763 to win the party nomination.
After the Super Tuesday contests, where Mr. Sanders lost seven of the 11 caucuses and primaries to Mrs. Clinton — six of which were held in the south — his campaign made winning Nebraska, Kansas and Maine a priority.
Mr. Sanders’ first campaign stop after the March 1 contests was in Maine, and more than one-fifth of his advertisement spending since Super Tuesday has been dedicated to Kansas and Nebraska. Both states have embraced his authenticity, the fact that he’s not beholden to corporate interests and proposals of debt-free university as reasons to rally for him.
In Nebraska, where Democrats but not Republicans held county caucuses, big crowds and long lines were reported outside caucus locations Saturday in the greater Omaha and Lincoln areas.
Kaitlin Heavin of Omaha was one of many young Sanders supporters who dominated the Sarpy County Caucus at Platteview High School in rural Springfield.
“I don’t hate Hillary, but I don’t love her, either,” said Ms. Heavin, who wore a Sanders T-shirt. “I love Bernie.”
One reason: “She’s just so establishment,” Ms. Heavin said.
Her friend Kim Anthony of Millard, who has two children with graduate degrees and hefty loans to show for it, cited Mr. Sanders’ stance on reducing student debt.
“I know he can’t do everything, but if he can just do some of what he’s talking about, he can get us on the right path,” Ms. Anthony said.
In Kansas, Mr. Sanders held a pre-caucus rally in the liberal strong hold of Lawrence with the aim of attracting voters. Although Mrs. Clinton had establishment support in the state with the backing of former Gov. Kathleen Sebelius, Mr. Sanders’ supporters were able to overcome it.
With weekend wins, Mr. Sanders is looking to head into March 8 with momentum — as delegate-rich Michigan is up for grabs. Mr. Sanders’ advisers have said his path to the nomination involves winning in industrial Midwestern states and targeting states like New York and California where many delegates are up for grabs.
Both candidates have been campaigning heavily in Michigan and spent the weekend there. On Sunday, Mr. Sanders and Mrs. Clinton will debate in Flint, Michigan. Mrs. Clinton requested to debate in the city to highlight the poisoned water crisis. Both Mrs. Clinton and Mr. Sanders have said if the city wasn’t predominately black and poor, the crisis may have never happened.
Mr. Sanders’ campaign manager Jeff Weaver told reporters the team feels good about their chances in Michigan.
“I think his message on trade in particular will be very powerful out there,” Mr. Weaver said after his team’s March 1 losses on the path ahead. “He has been a consistent opponent of the kind of job-gutting trade deals that Secretary Clinton has consistently supported for decades. And I think there will be some serious questions that will have to be answered by the Clinton campaign about why people should vote for a candidate who has voted for the type of trade deals that have gutted the economy in Michigan, Ohio and other places.”
• Valerie Richardson in Omaha and Springfield, Nebraska.