Mar 26, 2016
Democratic voters in Washington, Alaska, and Hawaii are caucusing on Saturday and, as Politico's Daniel Strauss put it, Bernie Sanders "has a fighting chance for a sweep."
Known for being left- and independent-leaning, the western-most states are predicted to turn out for the Vermont senator and give his campaign the necessary boost it needs to compete against rival Hillary Clinton.
"We have now won 11 states. And if there are large turnouts in Washington, Hawaii and Alaska, we have a shot to win three more," Sanders told an estimated crowd of 15,000 at the Seattle Mariner's baseball park Friday evening.
"And I believe that if we win here in Washington, we're gonna win in California, we are gonna win in Oregon, and we've got a real path toward victory," he said, building upon the momentum gained by wins in Utah and Idaho on Tuesday.
A total of 142 delegates are up for grabs--101 in Washington, 25 in Hawaii, and 16 in Alaska--which will be awarded proportionally. With 920 pledged delegates so far, Sanders currently trails the former secretary of State by 303, though Clinton boasts the support of 468 super delegates, compared to his 29.
"Washington is a place where Senator Sanders is making a stand," Jaxon Ravens, chairman of the state Democratic Party, toldPolitico. "[It's] where he's saying: 'This nomination process is not over. I am not stepping aside.'"
During Friday evening's address, Sanders pointed to a recent national poll that showed the two Democratic candidates competing neck-and-neck and other recent surveys that found him beating Republican frontrunner Donald Trump by 20 points.
"Don't let anybody tell you that Hillary Clinton is the strongest Democratic candidate to take on the Republicans. It is not true," he told the crowd, adding that a large turnout on Saturday could amount to a win for "political revolution."
Indeed, as the Seattle Timesreports, "the enthusiasm for the Sanders vs. Clinton race has party officials predicting Saturday's caucuses could approach 2008's record participation of 250,000," and they've already tallied an "unprecedented" 35,000 absentee ballots.
State election officials are hoping to avoid a fiasco, such as in Arizona last week, by employing a new pre-check system which allows voters to fill out all the necessary information ahead of time.
Beyond Washington, the other two Saturday contests highlight Sanders' 50-state strategy. His campaign has outspent Clinton in both Alaska and Hawaii in recent months, hoping to galvanize progressive and independent voters in those states.
In Hawaii, U.S. Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, who recently resigned from her post as Vice Chair of the Democratic National Committee so that she could endorse Sanders, has been campaigning her constituents on behalf of the senator.
"What I saw in Bernie Sanders was the heart of Aloha," Gabbard says in a new political advertisement for the Sanders campaign, "no matter who you are or where you come from in this country, that we are all in this together."
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