Clinton won the state by almost half a percentage point, according to the Kentucky Secretary of State’s website. Clinton declared victory after Kentucky Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes said that “based on what we are seeing coming in, … Kentucky will remain in a win column for the Clintons.”
Sanders, meanwhile, will win the Oregon Democratic primary. Speaking in Carson, Calif., he noted his strength in Kentucky, a state where Clinton soundly beat then-Sen. Barack Obama in 2008 and celebrated that he would still win a sizable chunk of delegates.
“It appears tonight we’re going to end up with about half of the delegates,” he said. “This is in a sense the beginning of the final push to win California.”
Despite calls for him to drop out, Sanders insisted he would stay in the race until “the last ballot is cast.”
Regardless of the margin, Clinton’s win in Kentucky is a welcome development for a campaign that is fighting a two-front war against Sanders and presumptive Republican nominee Donald Trump. Sanders holds an early lead in the Oregon Democratic primary. For his part, Trump won the Oregon Republican primary.
The Clinton victory in Kentucky follows a dramatic few days in which the divide among Democrats — overshadowed for much of the primary season by the rollicking GOP contest — is increasingly apparent.
The Nevada State Democratic Convention tipped into chaos this weekend as Sanders’ supporters cursed and hurled insults at Clinton allies. The tumult jarred the party as top members, including Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, blasted Sanders’ response and Sanders argued the party establishment is lining up against him.
A victory for Sanders in Kentucky would have exacerbated doubts about Clinton’s personal skills on the stump and wider appeal, even among Democrats — especially in a state where the Clintons have maintained deep political roots for decades and where she mounted an intense campaign swing in the final days before the primary.
The contests won’t significantly alter the overall shape of the Democratic primary race. Clinton maintains a lead of nearly 300 pledged delegates.
The only way Sanders could deprive of her of the nomination would be to pull off lopsided victories in the remaining races and convince Democratic superdelegates, who overwhelmingly favor Clinton, that they should abandon the front–runner, who has more delegates and a larger share of the popular vote.
Clinton and her allies seem especially eager to move on to the general election phase of the campaign. Priorities USA, the pro-Clinton super PAC, will begin airing general election ads against Trump on Wednesday in states that will be key battle grounds in November, including Ohio, Florida, Virginia and Nevada.
But first, Clinton must finish the primaries.
Kentucky is the type of state where the former secretary of state has prospered this year. Only Democratic voters could take part in its closed primary, meaning independents who normally lean toward Sanders are left out.
Clinton headlined 11 campaign stops over the last two weeks in Kentucky.