Hillary Clinton won Washington state’s presidential primary Tuesday, but it won’t help her get any closer to the Democratic nomination.
Statewide, early returns showed about 54 percent of voters favoring Clinton, the former secretary of state, over Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders. But most of Washington’s delegates will still go to Sanders, who won the state’s caucuses by a landslide in March.
Meanwhile, billionaire Donald Trump was sailing to victory Tuesday in the Evergreen State — not a surprise given that the outspoken billionaire is the only Republican left in the race. If Tuesday’s results hold, Trump could end up receiving all 44 of Washington’s delegates to the Republican National Convention.
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The state’s primary is of nominal significance given that it is occurring weeks after Trump became the presumptive Republican nominee, and because Democrats are ignoring the outcome.
Democrats are instead allocating delegates to candidates based on the March precinct caucuses, where Sanders won 73 percent of delegates. Given those results, Sanders will receive 74 of Washington’s 101 delegates to the Democratic National Convention, while Clinton will receive 27.
Statewide, about 230,000 people attended the caucuses March 26 — far fewer than participated in Tuesday’s presidential primary.
By Tuesday afternoon, about 1.3 million voters had returned their ballots, coming close to the 1.4 million voters that participated in the state’s last presidential primary in February 2008.
More ballots will be tallied in the coming days.
This has been a hugely high-visibility contest nationally. Even though it doesn’t matter, people are still pretty fired up.
Todd Donovan, professor of political science at Western Washington University
Todd Donovan, a professor of political science at Western Washington University, said voters seemed to take a keen interest in Washington’s primary this year, despite that it won’t have much influence on the presidential race.
He said part of that interest may be the effect of outsider candidates like Trump, a businessman and former reality TV star, and Sanders, who identifies as a Democratic socialist.
“This has been a hugely high-visibility contest nationally,” Donovan said. “Even though it doesn’t matter, people are still pretty fired up.”
The Democratic race was shaping up slightly differently in Thurston County, where Sanders had a slim lead over Clinton on Tuesday. All told, Sanders was leading Clinton in 15 of the state’s 39 counties — but not in King, Pierce or Snohomish counties, the state’s most populous.
Trump, meanwhile, was winning every county among Republicans.
State Sen. Doug Ericksen, a leader for the Trump campaign in Washington state, said Tuesday’s results show that Trump is starting to build a broad coalition of support. He called the initial primary results, in which 76 percent of Republicans favored Trump, “a great night.”
“The Republican Party is starting to coalesce,” said Ericksen, R-Ferndale, adding, “I think you saw a lot of independents and Democrats crossing over to vote for Mr. Trump.”
I think people are just frustrated. Us all voting Cruz sends a message that we’re unhappy with the current direction of the Trump campaign.
Curtis Thiel, Ted Cruz supporter and campaign volunteer from Puyallup
Yet some Republican voters still opted to show their support for candidates who are no longer in the race. Texas Sen. Ted Cruz was receiving about 10 percent of the vote Tuesday, as was Ohio Gov. John Kasich. Both dropped out of the race earlier this month.
Ben Carson, a retired neurosurgeon who left the race earlier in the year, also was receiving about 4 percent of Republican votes as of Tuesday.
Curtis Thiel, a Cruz campaign volunteer from Puyallup, said many Cruz supporters decided to vote for Cruz in the primary to express their concern to Republican leaders.
“I think people are just frustrated,” Thiel said Tuesday. “Us all voting Cruz sends a message that we’re unhappy with the current direction of the Trump campaign.”
The state Democratic Party said little about the primary results Tuesday, other than to criticize the vote by Republicans as “a full embrace of Trump’s agenda and Trump’s deeply offensive behavior.”
The Republican Party is starting to coalesce ... I think you saw a lot of independents and Democrats crossing over to vote for Mr. Trump.
Doug Ericksen, part of statewide campaign team for Donald Trump
The party declined to comment on why the Democratic primary results varied so much from the results of the caucuses.
“We didn’t use the primary to allocate delegates and did not promote it,” party spokesman Jamal Raad said.
Even without winning the majority of Washington’s delegates, Clinton will most likely become the Democratic presidential nominee. As of this week, she had accrued about 300 more pledged delegates than Sanders from primary and caucus victories.
Factor in superdelegates – Democratic elected officials and party leaders who can back any candidate – and Clinton is within 100 delegates of the 2,383 needed to win the nomination.
Donovan, the WWU professor, said Washington’s primary election results could ease pressure on some of the state’s elected superdelegates to shift their support from Clinton to Sanders. Some Sanders supporters had urged Washington’s superdelegates to back Sanders after his landslide caucus win.
The idea that those superdelegates are going against the will of the voters by supporting Clinton “looks ridiculous now,” Donovan said.
“It points out how much the caucuses distort reality,” Donovan said of Tuesday’s primary.
“It’s a good snapshot of what people who call themselves Democrats are thinking at this moment.”