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US election World

Clinton, Sanders face off in West Virginia as Trump looks on

US Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders holds a campaign rally in Sacramento, California

By Jonathan Allen

Bernie Sanders has another chance on Tuesday to slow Hillary Clinton’s march toward the Democratic US presidential nomination as West Virginians vote in their state’s primary, a week after Donald Trump became the presumptive Republican nominee.

Clinton, a former secretary of state and US senator from New York, holds a commanding lead in the pledged delegates needed to clinch her party’s nomination for the Nov 8 election to succeed Democratic President Barack Obama.

In West Virginia, where opinion polls show Sanders with a slight lead, 29 delegates are at stake. To secure the Democratic nomination, a candidate needs 2,383 delegates. Clinton currently has 2,228 delegates, compared to Sanders with 1,454, according to an Associated Press delegate count.

Clinton’s protracted battle with Sanders, who pulled off a victory in Indiana’s Democratic primary last week despite polls showing him trailing Clinton in the state, has become a source of gloating for Trump.

The billionaire New York real estate developer has taunted Clinton in recent days by saying she “can’t close the deal” by beating Sanders, her only rival for her party’s nomination since Feb 1. Clinton has said she will ignore Trump’s personal insults and instead criticize his policy pronouncements.

Trump’s victory in Indiana last Tuesday prompted his two remaining Republican rivals, US Senator Ted Cruz of Texas and Ohio Governor John Kasich, to drop out of the race, clearing the way for the businessman to claim his party’s nomination.


Although Trump is the sole candidate from what had been a 17-person field vying for his party’s nomination, Republican voters in West Virginia and Nebraska will get a chance to register their preferences on Tuesday, with the names of most of his vanquished rivals still appearing on ballots.

Clinton apologized last week in West Virginia, an important coal mining state, after being confronted by angry voters for saying in March that she would “put a lot of coal miners and coal companies out of business” with her plans to increase renewable energy sources.

She said her comment had been taken out of context and that she wanted to help retrain people who worked in the industry, one of the state’s biggest employers.

Sanders, a US senator from Vermont, has reminded his supporters at crowded rallies that most opinion polls indicate he would beat Trump in a general election match-up by a larger margin than polls show Clinton defeating Trump.

A Quinnipiac University poll released on Tuesday showed Clinton and Trump running neck-and-neck in three states that could be pivotal in the outcome of November’s election – Florida, Ohio and Pennsylvania – with Sanders holding an edge over Trump in each of them.

Clinton had 43 per cent support to Trump’s 42 per cent in Florida and Pennsylvania, while he drew 43 percent compared to her 39 per cent in Ohio, the poll found. Sanders edged Trump by 2 percentage points in Florida and Ohio and 6 percentage points in Pennsylvania, the poll showed.

The telephone poll involved about 3,200 likely voters and had a margin of error of plus or minus 3 percentage points.

A victory by Sanders over Clinton on Tuesday in West Virginia could boost his campaign in advance of June 7 contests in which nearly 700 delegates are at stake, including 475 in California, where Sanders is now focusing his efforts.

Despite an uphill battle to become his party’s presidential standard-bearer, Sanders has vowed to take his campaign all the way to the party’s nominating convention in Philadelphia at the end of July, and wants a say in shaping the party’s platform.

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