Democratic presidential front-runner Hillary Clinton seeks to avoid primary losses in Kentucky and Oregon on Tuesday, aiming to blunt the momentum of challenger Bernie Sanders ahead of a likely general election matchup against Republican Donald Trump.
- Kentucky and Oregon primaries today
- Hillary Clinton leads among Democrats with nearly 300 pledged delegates
- Bernie Sanders looks to do well in Oregon
Clinton enters Tuesday’s primaries with a lead of nearly 300 pledged delegates over Sanders and a dominant advantage among party officials and elected leaders called superdelegates. She remains on track to clinch the nomination against the Vermont senator in early June but is trying to avoid a trail of primary defeats that could expose weaknesses before she takes on Trump.
Democrats were holding primaries in Kentucky and Oregon as new questions over party unity emerged in the contest between Clinton and Sanders after a divisive weekend state party convention in Nevada put a spotlight on relations between the two sides. During a party event in Las Vegas, supporters of Sanders tossed chairs and made death threats against the Nevada party chairwoman arguing the party leadership rigged the results of the convention in favor of Clinton.
In a sign of the tensions, Sanders issued a defiant statement dismissing complaints from Nevada Democrats as "nonsense" and said his supporters were not being treated with "fairness and respect."
Trump was competing in the sole GOP contest in Oregon, unopposed as he was poised to pad his lock on the Republican nomination. The billionaire businessman picked up nine delegates on Tuesday in Guam, which held its territorial convention in March, and had 1,143 delegates heading into the Oregon contest, fewer than 100 delegates short of the 1,237 he needs to clinch the nomination.
In Kentucky, the former secretary of state visited black churches, a small-town diner and held rallies on Sunday and Monday in an effort to break up Sanders’ momentum after his recent victories in Indiana and West Virginia.
Clinton’s husband, former President Bill Clinton, was the last Democrat to carry the state in a presidential election — he won Kentucky in 1992 and 1996 — and the former first lady tried to emphasize those ties in the days leading up to the primary.
Clinton was joined by prominent Democrats like former Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear and Alison Lundergan Grimes, Kentucky’s secretary of state, and she pointed to the state’s economic progress during her husband’s two terms in the White House.
Sanders was favored in Oregon, which is among the nation’s most progressive states and the home to one of the senator’s largest rallies of his campaign last year in Portland. In a sign of his strength, Sanders secured the endorsement of Sen. Jeff Merkley, D-Ore., in April.
Nearing the end of a long primary slog, the two Democratic candidates are preparing for June 7 primaries in California, the nation’s largest state, New Jersey and four other states. When pledged delegates and superdelegates are combined, Clinton is about 94 percent of the way toward securing the Democratic nomination and is expected to lock it down by June 7.
Sanders has vowed to campaign through the end of the primary season on June 14 in the District of Columbia and amass as many delegates as possible to influence the party’s platform and message. He is still aiming to wrestle the nomination from Clinton even though he would need to win about two-thirds of the remaining pledged delegates to end the primary season in a tie.
The Vermont senator campaigned Monday and Tuesday in Puerto Rico, which holds its contest on June 5, and was holding a rally in the Los Angeles area late Tuesday.
Donald Trump building national operation
Donald Trump is rushing to install operatives in several states that traditionally favor Democrats, pointing to a general election plan consistent with the campaign he has run thus far: Defying conventional wisdom and political trends.
The staffing expansion includes Maine, Minnesota and other places where Trump opens as the underdog, with the New York billionaire seeking to expand the electoral battlefield by drawing on his appeal among working class white voters — and probable Democratic opponent Hillary Clinton’s perceived weakness with them. Still, it is an unlikely path to the White House, through states that no Republican presidential candidate has carried since the 1980s.
"I will win states that no Republican would even run in," Trump told The Associated Press in a recent interview.
The Trump campaign has identified roughly 15 states where it plans to install state directors by the end of the month. They include traditional battlegrounds like Ohio, Florida and Virginia and more challenging terrain such as Minnesota, Michigan, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania and Maine — places Republican have lost for the last six presidential elections or longer. Target states also will likely include Republican-leaning Georgia, where demographic shifts benefit Democrats.
Trump’s deployment of political operatives was outlined by campaign strategists who weren’t authorized to speak publicly about internal strategy and demanded anonymity. The plan will be subsidized, at least in part, by the Republican Party’s new "building fund," a lightly regulated pool of money that can include donations of more than $ 100,000 from individual donors, they said, though rules for doing so might pose an obstacle.
Trump is still playing catch-up at this point. While Clinton is already weeks into her own swing-state effort, Trump’s team is scrambling to build a national organization essentially from scratch.
"Up until three weeks ago, there were 102 or 103 employees, which is fewer than Ben Carson had in January," Trump aide Barry Bennett said. "Today, that number is much bigger, and it’s growing every day."
The former reality television star’s success in the GOP primary season was fueled almost exclusively by personality and a flood of free media coverage. His expansion into new states signals recognition that Trump must grow his bare-bones operation to be competitive this fall, even if he doesn’t fully embrace other modern-day political tactics.