Bernie Sanders Rolls Through Saturday's Democratic Primaries

March 27th 2016

Kylie Cheung

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vermont) has trailed Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton in delegates, but Saturday brought him victories in primaries in a three Western states: Alaska, Hawaii and Washington state. It's been a change for Sanders and his supporters after a string of losses in the South and the Midwest.

With 87.8 percent of precincts in Hawaii reporting at about 4 a.m. Eastern time Sunday, Sanders was dubbed the winner, Politico reports. There, he led Clinton 70.6 percent to 29.2 percent. Neither candidate had apparently left the mainland, however, Sanders' wife, Jane, had made the trip to the Aloha state, according to CNN.

Sanders' victory in Washington claimed 101 delegates in that state, along with 16 in Alaska. And while Sanders' recent victories are unlikely to affect Clinton's delegate lead, they were not entirely unexpected. Politico reports that the Clinton campaign did not buy any advertising in Alaska, where it has spent minimal time and energy and previously lost to then-Senator Obama in 2008. The Sanders campaign, on the other hand, spent roughly $61,000 on television and radio advertising, and the state of Alaska has been perceived by some pundits as having an "anti-establishment inclination," and viewed as unfavorable to "Wall Street and some of the banking bailouts," Alaska House Minority Leader Chris Tuck (D) told Politico. Others, such as Jim Lottsfeldt, the former senior adviser to the pro-Mark Begich Put Alaska First PAC, also believe that Sanders' wife Jane, who visited and campaigned in Alaska, made a significant difference to voters who "never, never get a taste of a candidate here."

What I saw in Bernie was a heart of aloha. No matter who you are or where you come from in this country, we are all in this together.- Rep. Tulsi Gabbard#BernieSanders #FeelTheBern

Posted by Tulsi Gabbard on Thursday, March 24, 2016

Despite its minimal polling leading up to Saturday, the endorsement of state Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D) made Sanders a clear favorite in the state of Hawaii to some pundits due to her popularity. Saturday's primary also follows the release of an emotional ad by Sanders about the cost of war, which Gabbard features in. Gabbard, a veteran, stepped down from her post as the Vice Chairwoman of the DNC last month solely to endorse Sanders, a symbolic gesture as Sanders builds his brand around fighting perceived corruption in the DNC and anti-establishment reform.

Washington state was also perceived as likely to work in Sanders' favor due to its predominantly white electorate, as Sanders has consistently performed disappointingly with black voters. Saturday's primary also immediately follows a Sanders rally in Seattle's Safeco Field on Friday that attracted roughly 50,000 people, and prominent newspaper The Seattle Times' endorsement of the Vermont senator. He took a dramatic lead early on.

Sanders' victories on Saturday come after an interview with The Young Turks earlier this week in which Sanders was asked under what conditions he would endorse Clinton, as she remains the front-runner for the nomination. Sanders made a point of emphasizing that while his campaign would "try as hard as we can until the last vote is cast," he nonetheless listed conditions which included his now very familiar set of goals: single-payer healthcare, a $15/hour minimum wage, increased efforts to address climate change, tuition-free public college education for all, and reining in Wall Street and corporate tax loopholes, to "completely revitalize" the Democratic party.

With these conditions put forward, Sanders makes a clear statement that his fight for a political revolution will go beyond winning the presidential race, but Saturday's results offer hope that these conditions might not be needed just yet as the fight for the nomination continues.

[Editor's Note: This story was updated at 6:42 a.m. Sunday, March 27 with Democratic presidential primary results from Hawaii.]