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Sanders wins Washington, Alaska

Bernie Sanders cruised to a convincing victory in Washington state’s caucuses on Saturday, a long-expected but much-needed win in the delegate-rich state.

While the underdog’s West Coast win is not nearly enough to trip up former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s path to the nomination, his apparently wide margin of victory provides his campaign with a burst of momentum heading into a 10-day break before the next primary contest. The Vermont senator’s big victories are also typically followed by a considerable fundraising bump.

Sanders also handily took Alaska’s caucuses, defeating Clinton by yet another big margin: he was up by well over 50 points as results trickled in on Saturday evening.

Hawaii, another far smaller state that also looks favorable for Sanders, was set to caucus on Saturday as well, though its results were not expected until after midnight Eastern time.

Sanders’ win in Washington — the day’s big prize with its 101 delegates — comes after Clinton’s campaign worked to minimize his advantage there and tried to stop him from gaining too much ground in the delegate race. He led by roughly 52 points with over 30 percent of precincts reporting their results. Still, Sanders’ performance is unlikely to cut too far into Clinton’s overall delegate lead.

Saturday’s results figure to mark Sanders’ best moment in weeks, as he looks to turn a string of strong performances in March — starting with runaway wins in Idaho and Utah on Tuesday — into a spark that pushes him closer to Clinton, despite her lead of roughly 300 pledged delegates. Even so, his bid to gain momentum heading into April was dealt a considerable blow by Clinton’s convincing win in much larger Arizona, the biggest delegate haul of the week.

While the front-runner held no public campaign events during Saturday’s voting — and had none scheduled at all for the Easter weekend — Sanders was rallying in Wisconsin, another progressive state that is set to host the next primary, on April 5.
“We are on a path toward victory,” Sanders told a Saturday evening crowd in Madison, referring to his Alaska and Washington wins. “It is hard for anybody to deny that our campaign has the momentum.”

Sanders held a series of last-minute rallies in Washington the night before, finishing with a 15,000-person event at Seattle’s 50,000-plus seat baseball stadium, Safeco Field.

Clinton was the underdog in Washington, a deep-blue state where her campaign opened nine offices to Sanders’ seven. He outspent her on advertisements and spent more time there, long recognizing that its liberal politics created a prime opportunity for him to pick up a significant share of its delegates, even as Clinton picked up endorsements from most of the state’s leading Democrats.

Seattle, the largest city in the state, has long appeared to be prime Sanders territory. In a progressive-minded city that elected a socialist to the city council last year, the Vermont senator also grabbed the endorsement of the Seattle Times — by far the biggest paper to back him — early in March.

“Don’t let anybody tell you that Hillary Clinton is the strongest Democratic candidate to take on the Republicans. It is not true,” he said Friday, telling the Washington crowd that the state would lead the country to Sanders’ much-touted “political revolution.”

Neither candidate visited Alaska prior to Sanders’ win there, though Clinton had a local headquarters in Anchorage while Sanders’ wife Jane campaigned there on Friday. With just 16 delegates at stake and no reliable public polling in place, the 49th state’s caucuses were something of an afterthought for both campaigns.

Hawaii and its 25 delegates, however, was slightly more front and center: one of Sanders’ top surrogates, Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, worked to swing the state in his favor with campaign appearances and television ads focused on veterans. Clinton’s camp countered by opening two offices in the state and organizing with Sen. Mazie Hirono.

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