SEATTLE • Senator Bernie Sanders routed Mrs Hillary Clinton in all three Democratic presidential contests on Saturday, infusing his underdog campaign with critical momentum and bolstering his argument that the race for the nomination is not a foregone conclusion.
Mr Sanders found a welcome tableau in the largely white and liberal electorates of the Pacific Northwest, where just days after resoundingly beating Mrs Clinton in Idaho he repeated the feat in the Washington caucuses, winning 73 per cent of the vote. He did even better in Alaska, winning 82 per cent, and in Hawaii, he had 71 per cent with a few precincts still to be counted, according to The Associated Press.
Washington, the largest prize on Saturday with 101 delegates in play, was a vital state for Mr Sanders, whose prospects of capturing the nomination dimmed after double-digit losses to Mrs Clinton across the South and weak showings in delegate-rich Ohio, Florida and North Carolina this month.
As of Saturday evening, Mrs Clinton had roughly 280 more pledged delegates and 440 more superdelegates than Mr Sanders.
At a rally in Madison, Wisconsin, on Saturday, Mr Sanders assured supporters that his victories had cleared a viable path to the nomination. The voter turnout was "huge" - in Washington, party officials estimated that more than 200,000 people participated, close to the record set in 2008.
The victories on Saturday only slightly narrowed the gulf with Mrs Clinton in the quest for the 2,382 delegates needed to clinch the Democratic nomination. But the wins are likely to bestow on the Sanders campaign a surge of online donations. They will also embolden Mr Sanders to stay in the race.
Republicans did not hold any contests on Saturday. The next nominating battle for both parties will be the April 5 primaries in Wisconsin, followed by the April 9 Democratic caucuses in Wyoming, another contest that plays to Mr Sanders' strengths. His wins on Saturday were not unexpected; both Washington and Alaska have relatively low percentages of the black and Latino voters who have bolstered the Clinton campaign this year, and he has done well in states holding caucuses.
But the results also highlighted the uphill climb Mrs Clinton would face in winning over the young and liberal voters who have flocked to the Vermont senator, and who often express concerns about her fund-raising and speech-making practices. "I appreciate Bernie's fervour and honesty," said Mr Ian Forrester, a 25-year-old barista and rock musician who caucused for Mr Sanders. "We've all seen the poor and the middle class suffer during this economic downfall, and we need someone who cares about them, not about corporations."
Mrs Clinton will have a chance to regain momentum when the Democratic primary moves to her adoptive home state, New York, on April 19.
NEW YORK TIMES