Tuesday Primaries: Sanders Wins Utah and Idaho; Trump Still Leads in Delegates

Bernie Sanders’ chances of catching up to Hillary Clinton’s delegate tally for the Democratic Party nomination remained steep after Tuesday’s vote, while Donald Trump’s path to the GOP nomination got easier — after presidential primaries in Arizona and party caucuses in Utah and Idaho.

The most delegate-rich contests were in Arizona, where on the Democratic side Hillary Clinton won with 59 percent, compared to 39 percent for Sanders. The state Democratic Party awards 75 delegates proportionally, meaning while Clinton’s victory may not yield that many more delegates, it deprives Sanders of the boost from winning a populous and diverse western state. On the Republican side, Trump has been leading in the polls and won with 47 percent, netting him 58 delegates in the GOP’s winner-take-all contest.

The results in Utah and Idaho went the opposite direction, but far fewer delegates were at stake. On the Democratic side, Sanders was expected to win among Utah’s progressive Democratic community that attended caucuses. He did, getting 74 percent compared to 25 percent for Clinton, where they will proportionately divide 33 delegates. In Idaho, Sanders won 80 percent of the vote in Boise — that state’s largest caucus — on the first vote, and was on track to winning most of the state’s 23 Democratic delegates.

These victories will sustain Sanders’ arguments that he has a path to the nomination, but Clinton is also managing to stay ahead of Sanders and keep accumulating the delegates needed to win the nomination.

On the Republican side in Utah, Ted Cruz, as expected, beat Trump, with 71 percent to Trump’ 14 percent, which netted him all of its 40 Republican delegates. John Kasich got 16 percent of the vote, beating Trump but gaining no delegates. Had Cruz gotten under 50 percent, Utah’s GOP delegates would have been divided proportionately. Mitt Romney and other Utah Republicans had urged their base to support Cruz.

It was hard to gauge the impact of Tuesday’s ISIS terrorist attack in Belgium on voting and caucuses. There were no media exit polls in the three states. In Arizona, more than a third of the state’s 700,000 registered Republicans had voted early — where their support of Trump was more likely tied to his uncompromising stands on immigration and the endorsement of Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpiao, who is notoriously tough on law-and-order stances. In fact, Marco Rubio, who dropped out of the race last week after losing in Florida, received 17 percent of the Arizona GOP vote — showing how many voters participated in early voting.

The remaining Republican candidates — Trump, Cruz and John Kasich — all made strong statements Tuesday about the ISIS attack, vying to take the most aggressive posture. The most offensive statements arguably came from Cruz, who called on law enforcement to “patrol and secure” Muslim neighborhoods across America. Trump revived his call to shut America’s borders to Muslims, a day after shocking the Washington Post editorial board with uninformedanswers in a hour sit-down, prompting them to editorialize on Tuesday that electing him would be a “radical risk.”

On the Democratic side, both Clinton and Sanders gave speeches on Tuesday night. In Seattle, Clinton said, “I do believe I am the most ready of everybody running to step into the Oval Office.” She gave her standard stump speech, saying the top criteria for the job were who would make the most positive difference for people, keep Americans safe and bring Americans together. She also criticized Trump’s and Cruz’s comments about the ISIS attack, saying their policies would make America far less safe, and said she would create millions of jobs by promoting alternative energy and addressing climate change.

Sanders, campaigning in southern California, pledged to stay in the race and urged his supporters to vote in the state’s June primary. “We have a path to victory,” campaign manager Jeff Weaver told CNN, dismissing the Arizona results and urging people to wait until they see what happens in Utah and Idaho. “It’s not an easy path, but it’s been that way from the beginning.”

Still, for Sanders to emerge as the nominee, he has to win a majority of the remaining states and win by some very big margins. On Saturday, Alaska, Hawaii and Washington hold Democratic caucuses.