Hillary Clinton, who has lost a string of primaries in May, hopes to end that streak Tuesday as Democrats in Kentucky head to the polls.
But the day likely won’t be a clean sweep for Clinton as her populist challenger, Bernie Sanders, is poised for victory in the Oregon Democratic primary.
Tuesday’s contests aren’t likely to change the overall dynamics of the race. Clinton maintains a sizable delegate lead and is poised to become the presumptive Democratic nominee in early June when the final round of states hold their contests. But her inability to snuff out the Sanders challenge has underscored concerns about her skills on the campaign trail and raised questions about whether the party will unite behind Clinton when she takes on presumptive Republican nominee Donald Trump in the fall.
Kentucky is Clinton’s best hope to recast the narrative about her tough month. Polling in the state is sparse, but Clinton has devoted substantial time and resources in the state over the past few days.
What to watch in Kentucky, Oregon
The Kentucky and Oregon contests come with Clinton in a strange kind of limbo — she is almost certain to win the nomination due to her lead of nearly 300 pledged delegates over Sanders, but he is still drawing huge crowds and vowing to fight on, delaying the party’s process of uniting behind its nominee. The former secretary of state is effectively fighting a two-front war, against both Sanders and Trump, who is already turning his full, scorching attention on his likely Democratic rival.
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 adsagainst 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 ought to be the kind of state where she can prosper. Only Democratic voters can take part in its closed primary, meaning independents who normally lean towards Sanders are left out. Former President Bill Clinton, who campaigned energetically for his wife, carried Kentucky in both his election wins in 1992 and 1996 and the Clintons maintain deep political roots in the state. Clinton has also done well in southern contests during the primary season.
But her comments in a CNN town hall meeting in Ohio in March that her clean energy policies would “put a lot of coal miners and coal companies out of business” stung in a state with a rich mining heritage. Those remarks contributed to a stinging loss for Clinton in last week’s West Virginia primary.
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In her Kentucky campaign stops, she has lauded the sacrifices of miners and in a bid to court blue collar workers. She also praised President Barack Obama’s auto industry bailout while accusing Sanders of opposing the measure, which was important for Kentucky because it is a hub of suppliers for auto manufacturers.
“Here’s my thinking, everybody was going down, the last thing we needed was to allow the auto industry with millions of jobs in the supply chain to go down too,” Clinton said in Kentucky on Monday.
The Sanders campaign has repeatedly accused Clinton of twisting the truth on the vote, saying the Vermont senator backed the bailout but voted against a bill in which funds for it were contained in a large Wall Street rescue.
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