WASHINGTON — Hillary Clinton racked up Democratic primary victories in racially mixed states in the Northeast, West, and South on Tuesday, a forceful demonstration of her dominance among minority voters that kept her on course to become the party’s nominee.
With 11 states holding Super Tuesday nominating contests, Clinton won seven of them: Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Massachusetts, Tennessee, Texas, and Virginia. Her victories across the southern states were all by double digits.
Her rival, Senator Bernie Sanders, overwhelmingly won his home state of Vermont and claimed a victory in Oklahoma. He also prevailed in the caucuses held in Colorado and Minnesota. His stubborn display of strength in those states showed that Clinton continued to struggle to attract young liberals and ensured that the race would continue, likely for months.
Clinton hit general election themes in her victory speech, looking past the primary contest.
“We know we’ve got work to do,” Clinton said. “But that work, that work is not to make America great again. America never stopped being great,” she said, a reference to Republican Donald Trump’s campaign slogan.
“We have to make America whole. We have to fill in. Fill in what has been hollowed out,” Clinton said.
Exit and entrance polls showed Sanders still had not expanded his appeal beyond his base of white and young voters, and his campaign increasingly seemed like an effort to push the Democratic Party to the left, rather than create a path for himself to the White House.
Still, Sanders had sufficient money from his grass-roots fund-raising to maintain his campaign throughout the spring, and there was no sign he would step aside.
“This campaign is not just about running for president, it is about transforming America,” Sanders said at his Super Tuesday celebration in Essex Junction, Vt., shortly after results were called for his home state. “It is about making our great country the nation that we know it has the potential to be.
“It is about dealing with some unpleasant truths that exist in America today and having the guts to confront those truths,” Sanders said.
Political donations poured into Sanders’ campaign in recent days, even after a recent pair of defeats. His top aides said he plans to stay in the contest until at least California, which votes in early June.
Clinton’s success showed the breadth of her support in the Democratic electorate, and built on her commanding victories last month in South Carolina and Nevada. For example, she won a stunning 92 percent of the black vote in Alabama, a state where African-Americans comprise 57 percent of the electorate.
She showed strength with women, winning female voters in at least seven of the 11 states that voted, according to exit polls.
Sanders retained his strength among young people — he won voters under 30 years old in at least eight of the 11 states that voted.
Results from Alaska, the US Territory of American Samoa, and Americans living abroad were still being tabulated Tuesday evening.
But Clinton was already looking to the future, flying to Florida for her Super Tuesday night party. That state holds a primary March 15, and more significantly is a must-win for Democrats in November if they hope to fend off the GOP and hold the White House.
Perhaps the biggest piece of evidence that Clinton has shifted to general-election mode came Tuesday afternoon, when she took questions from reporters traveling with her campaign for the first time in 87 days.
The topic wasn’t her current opponent — instead, she lashed out against Trump for failing to condemn a white supremacist supporter during a CNN interview over the weekend.
“I was very disappointed that he did not disavow what appears to be support from David Duke,” Clinton said during a visit to Minnesota. “I’m going to continue to speak out against bigotry wherever I see it or hear about it.”
Top Clinton strategists have said they plan to draw a contrast between what they see as Clinton’s inclusive world view and fear-mongering from Trump if he’s the GOP nominee.
Democrats view Trump’s recent comments, plus his other controversial statements on immigration, as complicating his efforts to attract support from Latinos or African-Americans.
And later in the evening, Clinton used much of her victory speech to set up a contrast with Trump, who favors controversial rhetoric on the campaign trail.
“What we need in American today is more love and kindness,” Clinton said.
“Instead of building walls, we’re going to break down barriers and build ladders of opportunity and empowerment,” she said. It was a clear response to Trump’s often repeated claim that he will build a wall along the country’s southern border to keep immigrants out.
She also cited Rust Belt cities that have struggled financially as manufacturing has dried up. These are areas populated by the white lower-income voters — including Democrats — who are particularly attracted to Trump’s message.
While Clinton has struggled to excite her party’s base, Tuesday’s results demonstrated the organizational power of her campaign, which competed effectively in all 11 states. And it illustrated the strength of her message of pragmatic progressivism over Sanders’ big ideas and big promises.
“I might not want to have a beer with her, she’s maybe a little abrasive, but as far as experience and she’s more of a policy wonk — I think she can get things done,” Larry Meade, 53, after casting a ballot for Clinton in Falls Church, Va. “She’s more realistic than Bernie Sanders and she’s probably the best chance to continue what Obama’s accomplished.”
Sanders told supporters at his election night party to keep an eye on the delegate count, and not to be too worried about which candidate wins the most states.
“Let me remind you of what the media often forgets about,” Sanders said to thousands of cheering supporters. “This is not a general election. It is not winner take all. If you get 52 percent, if you get 48 percent, you roughly end up with the same amount of delegates in a state.”
Those delegates were coming from the mostly white states, not from places where African-American voters make up a large chunk of Democratic electorate. And overall, Sanders’ winning margins with white voters are not large enough to overcome the massive deficits he has shown with minorities, which makes it difficult to clinch the nomination.
His supporters acknowledged that he has a difficult road to the nomination. Some said they were satisfied to send the party a message in the primary.
“My expectation is that Hillary will win in terms of the Democratic nomination, but it still feels good to at least engage in some kind of civic action, however small it may be,” said Arvand Moein a 25-year-old college student who supported Sanders in the Virginia primary.
In Sanders’ home state of Vermont, voters swelled with pride that their long-sidelined senator was occupying the national stage.
“It’s crazy to see people all over America saying, ‘Vote for Bernie!’ ” said Kellianna Bristol, 18, a Vermont native who works in the kitchen of a local bistro. “A couple of years ago no one would have even really [heard of him].”
Sanders voted in Burlington shortly after polls opened Tuesday morning.
“I will tell you after a lot of thought, I voted for me for president,” he said, exhibiting his signature dry humor.
Later in the afternoon, Sanders strolled down a cobblestone street in Burlington wearing sneakers and khaki pants. He was quickly surround by supporters.
“Go get ’em senator” said one man to Sanders, who responded, “OK, we will,” before getting into his motorcade.
Sanders has pledged to stay in the race all the way to the convention this summer, even if it becomes clear that he will not be the nominee.
His campaign pushed to raise as much cash as possible before Super Tuesday, as the polls looked grim for him.
The results were stunning: The campaign exceeded its goal of raising $40 million in February, a cash windfall that included pulling in more than $6 million on the last day of the month.
Most of his funds come from donors contributing about $30 each.
Small donors have flocked to his candidacy, opening their wallets at a shocking pace starting this year, when Sanders nearly defeated Clinton in Iowa and then shellacked her in New Hampshire.
That could be enough to fuel him through the next wave of contests, which include friendlier territory in states like Maine, Nebraska, and Idaho. He’s planned a trip to Portland, Maine, on Wednesday, which holds Democratic caucuses on Sunday.