Bernie Sanders beats Hillary Clinton in West Virginia

Second straight victory keeps US senator’s hopes alive as Trump wins two more states

US Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders celebrates win over Hillary Clinton in West Virginia primary but recognises their shared goal of defeating Donald Trump. Video: Reuters


Vermont senator Bernie Sanders won the West Virginia Democratic primary keeping alive his long-shot chance of beating front-runner Hillary Clinton in the party’s US presidential race.

The self-professed democratic socialist decisively won his second state victory in a row adding to his win in Indiana last week, stealing the momentum from the former secretary of state but still facing a slim chance of closing Mrs Clinton’s comfortable lead among delegates.

Businessman Donald Trump, the last remaining candidate in the Republican race, easily won the West Virginia and Nebraska primaries, strengthening his hand heading into talks tomorrow with Republican leaders in Washington who are unhappy with his hostile takeover of the party.

Despite his almost inevitable ascent to the Republican nomination, Mr Trump (69) continued to campaign in West Virginia and Nebraska last weekend as he chased the 1,237 delegates he needs to be formally named the Republican candidate in November’s presidential election.

Votes for his final two opponents, Ted Cruz and John Kasich, who remained on the ballots in the two states despite dropping out last week, would have been seen as a protest against the New Yorker’s status as the presumptive nominee but Mr Trump won the primaries by big margins.

The victories leave him just 118 pledged delegates short of the magic number of 1,237 that he needs to secure to win the nomination, a gap he should easily close in the remaining seven states.

Mrs Clinton’s failure to see off a dogged candidate in Mr Sanders and to conclude the Democratic presidential contest hurts her status as the presumptive nominee of the party.

US primaries results

At a campaign rally in Oregon, the next state to vote on May 17th, Mr Sanders trumpeted his victory in West Virginia pointing out that it was his 19th victory in state primaries and caucuses.

“Let me be as clear as I can be: we are in this campaign to win the Democratic nomination,” he said, pledging to fight “for every last vote” until the Democratic primaries end on June 14th.

“We have an uphill climb ahead of us but we are used to fighting uphill climbs. We have been fighting uphill from the first day of this campaign when people considered us a fringe candidacy.”

Mr Sanders (74) played up his standing in head-to-head polls that showed him performing better against Mr Trump than his Democratic rival, lambasting the businessman for his campaign of insults against Hispanics, Muslims and women.

The senator, long the favourite to win West Virginia, fared better than Mrs Clinton (68) among white working-class voters concerned about the economy and jobs in the state’s depressed coal industry.

Mr Sanders benefited from her gaffe at a CNN televised “town hall” meeting in March when she said she was “going to put a lot of coal miners and coal companies out of business”.

He again overwhelmingly won voters under the age of 45.

Mrs Clinton’s loss is a major reversal for the former US senator who beat Barack Obama in West Virginia’s Democratic primary in 2008 by more than 40 percentage points.

Still, she has 1,718 pledged delegates, a lead of almost 300 on Mr Sanders’s 1,422 delegates. Including the 516 super-delegates - Democratic party leaders and elected officials - this leaves her just 149 delegates short of the majority of 2,383 that she needs to win the nomination.

Her challenger has won 45 per cent of the pledged delegates but needs to outperform in the remaining contests in eight states, two US territories and the District of Columbia, winning 66 per cent of the delegates still to be won to pip Mrs Clinton to the nomination.

In a worrying trend for the former New York senator in her likely head-to-head with Mr Trump in November, exit polls showed that only 33 per cent of West Virginia Democrats are committed to voting for a Democrat in November and about 27 per cent said that they would vote for Mr Trump.

The support shows the businessman’s broad appeal among blue-collar workers in industrial states and some of America’s poorest counties in rural Appalachia where people blame job losses and economic decline on the international trade deals attacked by Mr Trump and Mr Sanders.

A Quinnipiac University poll on Tuesday showed Mrs Clinton and Mr Trump in a dead heat in three key swing states, Florida, Ohio and Pennsylvania, making their probable face-off in the presidential election look far closer than other polls suggest.