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Hillary Clinton squeaked by in Kentucky; Bernie Sanders won Oregon

All roads still lead to California and the June 7 primary

CNN  — 

Bernie Sanders won more delegates than Hillary Clinton on Tuesday night – but not enough to slow Clinton’s march to the Democratic presidential nomination.

Clinton won Kentucky by a razor-thin margin, while Sanders notched a bigger 53% to 47% victory in Oregon. The 61 delegates Kentucky had on the line and Oregon’s 74 will be divided proportionally among the two candidates based on results in those states – and that’s the bad news for Sanders. He needs to win by overwhelming margins the rest of the way to stand a chance at catching Clinton.

Here are five takeaways from Tuesday’s primaries:

Clinton finally wins a state

With an all-but-insurmountable delegate lead, Clinton didn’t need to win Kentucky.

But she’s surely glad she did, however narrow her victory.

Her triumph – particularly in a largely white, working-class state – will prevent Clinton from limping into California’s June 7 primary on a string of May losses.

In Kentucky, Clinton learned the lessons of Indiana, where Sanders outspent her on television, nearly $2 million to $0. Unlike Indiana, where she held just three events, Clinton devoted much more time to campaigning in Kentucky.

She held 11 campaign stops over three visits, spread over a two-week span. And she played up the economic credentials of her husband, Bill Clinton — the last Democrat to carry Kentucky in a general election, in 1992 and 1996.

Also helping Clinton with the registered Democrats who voted in Kentucky’s primary: Her carefully cultivated status as President Barack Obama’s natural heir.

The party’s gains have been hard-won in the state. Former Gov. Steve Beshear fought to set up a state program for Obamacare that became a national model – only to watch Republican Gov. Matt Bevin strive to dismantle it. The changes of the Obama era are still not secured in Kentucky – so Sanders’ big-picture liberalism feels much less feasible there.

But Sanders wins Oregon

Sanders’ win in Oregon wasn’t nearly enough to put him in a realistic place to overtake Clinton in the number of pledged delegates – but it did mean he’ll close Tuesday’s contests with more delegates that day than Clinton, and it’ll keep his campaign chugging along.

The largely white, liberal, homogenous state was the perfect place for a Sanders victory. He was so confident he’d win Oregon that he spent the days leading up to the primary campaigning in California and Puerto Rico.

Nightcap: Democratic disarray | Sign up

“Let me be as clear as I can be: I agree with you. We are in ‘til the last ballot is cast,” Sanders told supporters in Carson, California, late Tuesday night.

Sanders turned his election-night speech into a rant against media and political establishment figures who are increasingly calling on him to exit the race. He touted California’s positioning as a delegate gold mine.

“Don’t tell Secretary Clinton, she might get nervous: I think we’re going to win here in California,” Sanders said. “And as all of you know, California has 475 pledged delegates.”

What that means: Sanders has staked everything on staying in the race until the last votes are counted.

This race will stay messy

Suddenly, the party that expected to sit back and watch Republicans duke it out at their convention in Cleveland is fretting that chaos could come to Philadelphia.

The turmoil at Nevada’s Democratic convention over the weekend spilled into Tuesday night. After reports that the state chairwoman faced threats from Sanders supporters, his campaign manager Jeff Weaver said on CNN that “we condemn that, absolutely, categorically.”

Weaver promised peace at the Democratic National Convention.

“There’s not going to be any violence in Philadelphia … I guarantee you that. We hope for a fair and orderly convention,” he said.

But Sanders’ supporters might not be easy to mollify.

The big question is whether what happened in Nevada will occur again.

“What happened at that convention was unacceptable,” said Democratic National Committee Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz, laying the blame heavily on Sanders’ supporters by saying they should “address process concerns in a civil way” in a Tuesday night interview with CNN’s Wolf Blitzer.

“The bottom line is, we have the same rules in place that elected Barack Obama, and these rules were adopted by state parties around the country in 2014,” she said. “They were followed, and even if the Sanders supporters were frustrated, there is never a place for violence and intimidation to be resorted to.”

But is Kentucky actually over?

More people voted for Martin O’Malley in Kentucky than the margin between Clinton and Sanders at the end of the night, a margin close enough to make a recount possible.

With all precincts reporting, Clinton held a 1,923 vote lead over Bernie Sanders, the office of Kentucky Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes told CNN.

The state’s results don’t become official until May 31. Sanders has a week to request in writing a re-canvass that would involve Kentucky officials manually checking voting machines to make sure that the totals are correct.

Sanders spokesman Michael Briggs told CNN that the campaign will “take a close look at the numbers” and decide Wednesday whether to challenge Kentucky’s results.

What may bother Sanders’ supporters: Lundergan Grimes went on CNN before all the votes were in and called Clinton the “unofficial” winner of Kentucky.

Lundergan Grimes is a big Clinton supporter. Her father, an influential Democrat in Kentucky, is a long-time Clinton ally, too. Would she have made the same “unofficial” declaration for Sanders?

Yes, the Republican race really is over

While the Democratic race rolls on, the GOP contest — the one with Donald Trump, 17 candidates and personal insults that everyone was exercised about – is officially over, done and boring.

The best political experts could do was muse about mail-in ballots in Oregon.

It’s a vote-by-mail state, and ballots were sent out three weeks before the primary. Trump had just won on the East Coast, and Ted Cruz and John Kasich were just about to strike a deal that would’ve theoretically given Kasich a clean one-on-one shot at Trump in Oregon.

Of course, both Cruz and Kasich dropped out after the Indiana primary. But Oregon voters still had the option of going with one as a protest vote.

That didn’t happen. With more than half the vote in, Trump was on course to take two-thirds of the state’s GOP support.

Outside the election-night spotlight, Trump’s campaign did everything possible to stay in the news Tuesday night.

First, he filed a personal financial disclosure claiming he earned at least $560 million last year. And he taunted Clinton via Twitter.

Then, Trump’s campaign and the Republican National Committee announced a joint fundraising agreement to form two committees that will allow individual donors to give up to $449,400 and will help state parties.

Why that move matters: It’s the latest demonstration of the reality that this is Trump’s Republican Party now.