Bernie loses his Bluegrass State battle: Hillary Clinton narrowly takes tight Kentucky Democratic primary

Clinton was able to stop Sanders from winning his 20th state with a squeaker in coal country

By Sophia Tesfaye
May 18, 2016 5:31AM (UTC)
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(AP/Susan Walsh/Jason DeCrow/Photo montage by Salon)

Democratic presidential frontrunner Hillary Clinton was able to stop Bernie Sanders from winning his 20th state with a narrow victory in Kentucky Tuesday.

The Kentucky primary was closed, meaning only registered Democrats could vote. Clinton had previously won 10-out-of-10 closed Democratic primaries, and despite a serious challenge from Sanders, the former first lady whose husband was the last Democrat to win the state in a general election was able to maintain her own perfect record with registered Democrats.


With 99 percent of precincts reporting, Clinton leads Sanders by less than one percentage point, according to NBC News:

From The New York Times:

Kentucky results

Clinton has now won five out of six contests that were decided by five percentage points or less (Sanders pulled off an upset in Michigan).


Clinton appears to have taken all of the state's major population centers, even winning some counties with large factions of traditional Sanders voters, like near the University of Louisville where African-American voters make up around 20 percent of the Democratic base. Sanders - a vocal anti-coal candidate - appeared to obliterate Clinton across coal country throughout the state, an area where Clinton saw reverse margins of victories over Barack Obama in 2008. Republicans, of course, pummeled Clinton for her recent debate admission that her energy plan aimed to end the coal industry.

Today's Democratic primaries in Kentucky, which has 61 delegates up for grabs, and in Oregon, which offers 74, served as Clinton's last chance to defeat Sanders before their big California showdown in June. After losing primary battles to Sanders in Indiana and West Virginia this month, the Clinton campaign has attempted to pivot to the general election since shortly before Donald Trump clinched the Republican race, but in recent days decided to aggressively contest the Bluegrass State. Clinton appeared at five campaign events throughout the state in the past 48 hours and spent heavily on advertising, according to MSNBC.

The mail-in Democratic primary in Oregon on Tuesday was also a closed Democratic race. There has been little polling in Oregon, but some of the latest polling from March indicated that Clinton holds a narrow lead -- although pollster Nate Silver gives Sanders a 15 percentage point edge over Clinton.


No matter tonight's results, Clinton marches on towards the Democratic presidential nomination as even the slightest of losses in Kentucky and largest of wins in Oregon would likely do little make much of a dent in Clinton’s lead of 280 elected delegates, because of the proportional allocation system.

Sophia Tesfaye

Sophia Tesfaye is Salon's Deputy Politics Editor and resides in Washington, D.C. You can find her on Twitter at @SophiaTesfaye.

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2016 Democratic Primary Coal Country Election 2016 Elections 2016 Kentucky Politics