- The Washington Times - Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Hillary Clinton and Sen. Bernard Sanders battled to a virtual tie in Kentucky on Tuesday, further miring the Clinton campaign in a brutal primary fight while it also tries to turn its attention to another front — the general election battle against Republican Donald Trump.

The tight result in Kentucky underscores Mrs. Clinton’s inability to push the senator from Vermont out of the race despite her overwhelming lead in the delegate count. Last week’s loss in the West Virginia primary and Tuesday’s razor-thin result in Kentucky highlight how white, working-class voters in Appalachia and elsewhere simply aren’t warming to Mrs. Clinton’s campaign as they did in 2008, when she racked up significant margins with that bloc of voters in her fight with Barack Obama.

Mrs. Clinton also did herself no favors among Appalachian voters with her promise this year to put more coal miners out of work if elected — words she later tried to walk back, though the damage in West Virginia and Kentucky already had been done.

The race in Kentucky remained too close to call as of 9:15 p.m. With 99 percent of the vote in, Mrs. Clinton led Mr. Sanders by the slightest of margins, 46.9 percent to 46.3 percent — a mere 2,500 votes.

Results of the Oregon Democratic primary also were not available as of press time Tuesday night.

Mrs. Clinton’s inability to close out the Democratic primary isn’t her only problem. Her poll numbers against Mr. Trump have slipped, raising questions about whether she is best suited to beat the billionaire businessman in November.

An NBC News poll released gave Mrs. Clinton a 3-point advantage over Mr. Trump in a hypothetical November matchup, 48 percent to 45 percent. Another NBC News poll released last week gave her a 5-point lead.

By contrast, Mr. Sanders consistently beats Mr. Trump by double digits, surveys show, fueling his campaign’s contention that he is the Democratic Party’s best hope in the fall.

The Clinton campaign acknowledges that it is engaged in two separate battles, and that both are proving difficult. The campaign has tried to turn its attention to Mr. Trump, but the continued competitiveness of Mr. Sanders has made that virtually impossible.

“Right now, Hillary is the only candidate waging two campaigns, which means we need twice as many resources as Bernie Sanders or Donald Trump,” Clinton campaign finance director Dennis Cheng said in an email to supporters Tuesday. “After Bernie Sanders won in West Virginia, his supporters chipped in $1 million in a single day. Meanwhile, Donald Trump has abandoned his promise to fund his own campaign, and donations are pouring in from wealthy Republicans — they hope to raise $1 billion to hurl vicious attacks against Hillary.”

Mr. Trump also tweaked Mrs. Clinton, suggesting that the close contest in Kentucky proves she is a bad candidate.

“Do you think Crooked Hillary will finally close the deal? If she can’t win Kentucky, she should drop out of race. System rigged!” Mr. Trump tweeted Tuesday night.

Like the Kentucky contest, the Oregon primary is closed, and only registered Democrats can participate. Closed primaries have tended to favor Mrs. Clinton, while Mr. Sanders has benefited from open primaries by pulling significant numbers of independent voters to his side.

As the Kentucky counting went on into the night, Mr. Sanders was preparing to speak to thousands of supporters in California, where Democrats will vote June 7 and a state that the Sanders campaign hopes to secure a major, race-altering victory.

But even a win in California likely won’t keep Mrs. Clinton from becoming the nominee.

Heading into Tuesday’s contests, Mrs. Clinton held a big lead in the delegate count — a lead that seems to be insurmountable, regardless of how the rest of the party primaries play out.

Among pledged delegates, Mrs. Clinton led Mr. Sanders 1,716 to 1,433. Among superdelegates — party officials free to support either candidate — she holds a massive advantage, 524 to 40.

Sixty delegates are at stake in the Kentucky primary, including five superdelegates, two of whom already have pledged their support to Mrs. Clinton. In Oregon, 74 delegates are on the line, including 13 superdelegates. Six superdelegates already have lined up behind Mrs. Clinton, while one is supporting Mr. Sanders.

The Sanders campaign is trying to woo superdelegates to its side ahead of the party convention in July, but there is no evidence that such a strategy will work as long as Mrs. Clinton retains her lead among pledged delegates.


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