Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton won the Arizona primary, the biggest prize in Tuesday’s presidential nominating contests, while rival Bernie Sanders notched wins in the Utah and Idaho caucuses.
Claiming victory Tuesday night, Clinton slashed at the Republican field's reaction to the terrorist attacks in Belgium. Texas Sen. Ted Cruz suggested law enforcement patrol Muslim neighborhoods, and Donald Trump reiterated his call to bar Muslims from entering the United States.
The view expressed by Trump and Cruz, she said, “is not only wrong, it is dangerous.” She also spoke about understanding Americans’ anger and frustration and pledged to work to improve their lives.
“We are determined that we are going to give back the hope that every American should have, that at their hard work will get them ahead — will enable them to have a better future, will give their children, and yes, their grandchildren, a chance to live up to their God-given potential,” she said at a rally in Seattle. “You are part of the most consequential election we have had in a long time in America… The stakes get higher by the day.”
Arizona offered more delegates up for grabs than Utah and Idaho combined. All three states saw long lines, with some Phoenix-area polls staying open late to accommodate voters who waited more than two hours to cast ballots.
Sanders campaigned heavily in Arizona, pressing forward with his message about income inequality and urging voters to take a gamble on his more ambitious liberal agenda. He spent $1.3 million on advertising there, more than double what Clinton spent, according to data from SMG Delta.
After his Arizona loss became clear but before his two wins, Sanders stuck to a familiar theme: emphasizing the unlikely durability of his upstart campaign.
“When we began this campaign, we were considered a fringe candidacy,” he said at a rally Tuesday night in San Diego. “Well, 10 months later, we have now won 10 primaries and caucuses. And unless I'm very mistaken, we're going to win a couple more tonight.”
Sanders, the Vermont senator and self-described democratic socialist, was hungry for wins after a series of losses to Clinton, the former secretary of State. She started building her lead at the beginning of the month with landslide victories in Southern states, only to suffer a surprise loss in Michigan on March 8.
Even Sanders’ victory in Michigan illustrated the uphill nature of his battle. Clinton won by a much larger margin that same night in Mississippi’s primary, so, thanks to proportional allocation, she came away with a bigger lead in delegates.
She then regained her footing and swept Sanders in all five states that voted March 15, including Ohio and Florida.
Entering Tuesday’s contests, Clinton had won 319 more pledged delegates than Sanders, according to an Associated Press tally. Until the results in Arizona, Utah and Idaho are formalized, either candidate’s delegate tally is unclear. But Sanders was unlikely to make any significant dent in Clinton’s delegate lead.
“We are on the path to the nomination,” Clinton told union workers in Everett, Wash., on Tuesday afternoon, noting that she has a bigger delegate lead than then-Sen. Barack Obama did at this point during their 2008 fight to be the Democratic nominee.
Despite increasing pressure on Sanders to wind down his candidacy, he’s kept up his fight against Clinton. He criticized her in Flagstaff, Ariz., for financing her campaign with corporate donations and receiving payments for “speeches on Wall Street behind closed doors.”
Clinton had a double-digit lead in the Arizona polls over Sanders and mentioned him only once in her speech at a high school gym in Phoenix on Monday, while describing their differing views on making college more affordable. She spent more time criticizing Republicans.
“The stakes in this election just keep getting higher and higher, and the rhetoric on the other side keeps getting lower and lower,” Clinton said.
She said that she understands Americans’ frustrations, but that she had never seen such a divisive, mean-spirited presidential race.
“Anger is not a strategy,” she said. “We have to roll up our sleeves and get to work.”
Mark Kaelber, 54, wore a Clinton button, T-shirt and sticker to the candidate’s rally and said he was disappointed by Sanders’ recent attacks.
“I have always admired Bernie, but it’s gotten really nasty. He’s implying Hillary is corrupt and bought and paid for. He needs to stop,” said Kaelber, a university admissions advisor. “It seems like he can’t accept the fact he’s not going to win. It doesn’t do anyone any good by him continually being negative toward her.”
Other Clinton supporters in Arizona worried that Sanders has focused too narrowly on income inequality at the expense of other important issues.
“I love Bernie. My only concern with him is that he has been too much of a one-issue candidate,” said Kris Kyllo, a 65-year-old retiree from Chandler.
While campaigning in Arizona, both Clinton and Sanders sharply criticized Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio, who is nationally recognized for his hard-line stance against immigrants in the U.S. illegally.
“When I see people like Sheriff Arpaio and others who are treating fellow human beings with such disrespect, such contempt, it just makes my heart sink,” Clinton said.
Sanders said, “It's easy for bullies like Sheriff Arpaio to pick on people who have no power.” He added, “If I'm elected president ... watch out, Joe.”
With Donald Trump on track to become the Republican nominee, Sanders has highlighted polls that show him beating the New York businessman in a general election by a wider margin than Clinton.
“There is no question that you are looking at the strongest Democratic candidate,” he said Monday.
His campaign team has repeatedly described the primary calendar as skewed in Clinton’s favor for the first half of the nominating contests and expect Sanders to pick up steam in western states, such as Washington, which holds its Democratic caucuses Saturday.
“We’re at halftime here, and we agree we’re behind, but we think we’re going to win this game,” said Sanders strategist Tad Devine last week.
Jeff Weaver, Sanders’ campaign manager, expressed frustration with the sentiment that Clinton was already locking down the nomination, calling it a “media drumbeat to essentially disenfranchise half of the Democratic voters.”
Times staff writer Melanie Mason in Sacramento contributed to this report.
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