Hillary Clinton won Maryland’s primary Tuesday, padding her delegate lead over Bernie Sanders.
Pennsylvania, Connecticut, Delaware and Rhode Island, where polls closed at 8 p.m., have not been called.
The results follow a week in which the two campaigns dueled over the current state of the race, with Clinton’s camp presenting her nomination as inevitable and Sanders insisting the contest was still in full swing.
Clinton’s campaign has been declaring the Democratic primary all but over, calling for the party to unite behind her against Donald Trump and the GOP.
Sanders’ campaign has been talking about the possibility of a President Sanders picking Elizabeth Warren for vice president.
Both campaigns will see their versions of reality put to the test Tuesday in the five northeastern states and, if the polls are correct, Clinton’s will emerge the better for it.
With the mass of the delegates coming from Pennsylvania, any hope Sanders has of gaining ground in the overall race rests in a big night there. But he trails by double-digits in polls there, and Rhode Island looks like the senator’s best hope for an outright win. The left-leaning Public Policy Polling put him 2.5 percentage points ahead of Clinton in a Rhode Island poll last week, though a Brown University poll conducted a few days earlier had Clinton up by 9 points.
Those poll deficits come even as Sanders has outspent Clinton on radio and television ads in all five states.
Another string of losses would mean trouble for Sanders. He has 1,153 pledged delegates to Clinton’s 1,428. That deficit balloons when superdelegates are included, putting Sanders total at 1,192 and Clinton’s at 1,944.
There’s a total of 384 pledged delegates at stake Tuesday, 284 of which will come from Pennsylvania and Maryland. (As with all states in the Democratic primary, the five states voting Tuesday will give delegates out proportionally based on the popular vote.)
Pennsylvania, Maryland, Connecticut and Delaware all use closed primary systems, a complicating for Sanders as some of his strength stems from a strong standing among independents. Rhode Island is Tuesday’s lone semi-open primary.
But if Sanders is indeed going down, he’s going down swinging.
At a MSNBC town hall Monday night, he said he’d do whatever he could to keep a Republican out of the White House, whether he wins the nomination or not. He added, however, that if Clinton wanted his supporters to back her, it was her job to bring them over, saying they have “serious misgivings about a candidate who has received millions of dollars from Wall Street and other special interests.”
He also called on Clinton to back his plan to expand Medicare and to take a more aggressive stance on reducing fossil fuel use to address climate change.
Sanders also discussed the prospect of naming a female vice president Tuesday, saying “there are many women who would be qualified” during an appearance on MSNBC’s Morning Joe.
He added that Elizabeth Warren “has been a real champion in standing up for working families.
On Tuesday, his wife Jane Sanders said the campaign would release tax returns from earlier years when Clinton released the transcripts of paid speeches she gave to Wall Street financial firms.
The campaign insists Sanders plans to stay in the race through this summer’s Democratic convention, though the New York Times reported Tuesday that the candidate will huddle with his advisors following the primary to “reassess where his candidacy stands.”
The Clinton campaign, meanwhile, is suggesting Sanders has already lost.
“We believe we are going to expand our lead in pledged delegates,” chief Clinton pollster and strategist Joel Benenson said of Tuesday’s contests on MSNBC’s “Andrea Mitchell Reports. “It’s going to, you know, make it virtually impossible for Senator Sanders to catch us after this as the nominee.”
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, who supports Clinton, was more direct when asked whether Sanders could win: “No. I do not,” he said.
The rules of the Democratic Party favor a stalemate for the next few months if Sanders refuses to bow out. With no winner-take-all states, it’s nearly impossible for Clinton to score the type of blowout victories that would mathematically eliminate Sanders from the race.
Despite the lack of resolution, Clinton is increasingly turning her focus toward Donald Trump, who’s poised for another big night Tuesday in his bid to clinch the Republican nomination.
Clinton unveiled a new line of attack against him on Monday, mocking his lavish lifestyle and accusing him of indifference to problems of non-billionaires, such as the national minimum wage.
“Don’t just fly that big jet in and land it, go make a big speech and insult everybody you can think of and then go back, get on that big jet, and go back to, you know, your country club house in Florida or your penthouse in New York,” Clinton said at an event in Delaware.
Clinton didn’t spare Ted Cruz, either.
“When you hear Trump and Cruz and the Republicans talking about their economic policies, they want to go back to what failed us before,” Clinton said, after praising her husband’s economic plans as president. “They talk a good game, but if you look at what they are actually putting out, they want to slash taxes on the wealthy.”
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