Sanders defeated Clinton in West Virginia, even though one-third of Dems there said they will vote for Trump in November
Trump easily won Nebraska and West Virginia, with little sign of any protest vote
Bernie Sanders defeated Hillary Clinton in West Virginia Tuesday night, keeping his long-shot bid to win the Democratic presidential nomination alive for now.
Donald Trump, the presumptive Republican nominee, captured two states – West Virginia and Nebraska – as voters continue to flock to the New York billionaire. Exit polls in both states painted a picture of conservative voters eager for outsiders in Washington.
Here are five takeaways from Tuesday night’s primaries:
West Virginia doesn’t like Hillary Clinton
Clinton defeated Barack Obama here in 2008, but didn’t come close to a victory on Tuesday, losing to Sanders by a wide margin.
Sanders won handily in nearly every demographic, according to exit polls. He fared strongly among the many voters concerned with the economy and won big margins in coal industry households.
Clinton has tried to clean up her comments from a CNN town hall in March that she wanted to “put a lot of coal miners and coal companies out of business,” but the damage had already set in.
The Democratic electorate in West Virginia was easily more conservative than most states thus so far, according to exit polls. But that didn’t help Clinton, the more moderate of the two candidates.
Nearly 40% of Democratic voters said they want the next president to be “less liberal” than Obama. Of those voters, 62% went with Sanders – the self-described democratic socialist.
Overall, neither candidate has much to tout here – about one-third of Democratic primary voters said they’d support Trump in November.
Warning signs for Clinton
The always-running-late Clinton stuck to the schedule on Tuesday night, delivering a speech in Kentucky early and then making a beeline to the airport in order to not be on stage by the time West Virginia polls closed and results showing her substantial loss poured in.
Her disappointing finish hinges on more than her hit on coal – it also shows the challenges of winning a general election while essentially running for Obama’s third term.
The voters of West Virginia are more conservative than the broader Democratic base, but Clinton will still need to run strong with moderate-to-conservative voters in Rust Belt states like Michigan and Ohio to beat Trump in November.
Her advisers are carefully studying the opinions of white working-class voters like those in West Virginia. She doesn’t need to win them and she won’t, but her advisers want to see her improve her standing with them.
Clinton also has wanted to focus her attention on exciting the Democratic base and uniting the party heading into the fall – a task that seems near-impossible before the convention as she continues to lose primaries to Sanders’ improbable campaign. The loss of momentum makes it more difficult for her to make the case she can close the deal with the broad liberal base.
Math still against Sanders
West Virginia only had 29 Democratic delegates at stake Tuesday night, a small fraction of the more than 900 left through June. Even with his win there, Sanders did little to move the needle substantially against Clinton.
Going into Tuesday, Sanders needed more pledged delegates than remain in upcoming primaries to clinch the nomination. At best, Sanders can still pick up enough pledged delegates going into the convention to hold a slim majority over Clinton, but would need to win roughly two-thirds in order to do so. And he would still need superdelegates to switch away from Clinton to his candidacy in order to actually secure the nomination.
West Virginia’s demographics helped him as well – 91% of voters were white, according to exit polls. That won’t be the case in delegate-rich states like California and New Jersey on June 7.
“We now have won primaries and caucuses in 19 states,” Sanders said at a rally in Salem, Oregon, Tuesday evening. “Let me be as clear as I can be. We are in this campaign to win the Democratic nomination.”
Republicans not unified yet
Trump easily won West Virginia and Nebraska without a protest vote to rally the anti-Trump forces still out there in the Republican Party. Although Ted Cruz won nearly roughly 19% in Nebraska, Trump’s strong wins come despite some high-profile GOP naysayers about his candidacy and prospects of winning in November, including Nebraska’s own Sen. Ben Sasse.
But that doesn’t mean the Republican Party is unified.
Exit polls showed a GOP electorate still smarting from the wounds of a contentious primary, with 58% of Republicans in West Virginia saying they feel the party is divided now but can come together in November. Only 30% believed the GOP will remain divided.
In Nebraska, however, voters were split, with about half saying the party will unite and half saying it won’t before November. And while the vast majority of GOP voters expect Trump to beat Clinton in a general election, nearly 1 in 5 Republican voters in Nebraska said they wouldn’t vote for either one in the fall.
Still the year of the outsider
Exit polls on both sides of the race showed an electorate hungry for a shake-up in Washington.
Among Democrats in West Virginia, only 27% said they want a candidate who continues Obama’s policies.
In both states, more than 90% of Republican voters said they were “angry” or “dissatisfied” with the federal government.
And more than 6 in 10 Republicans in Nebraska said they felt “betrayed” by GOP politicians.
It continues a trend seen in primaries all year — voters are hungry for change. Even if the parties don’t agree on what change they seek, voters have responded strongly to candidates promising to remake Washington, which could pose a challenge to Clinton in a general election as she seeks to build on Obama’s legacy.
CNN’s Jeff Zeleny and Jennifer Agiesta contributed to this report