Hillary Clinton surges to clean sweep as the Donald Trump juggernaut is thrown a spanner

Clinton takes aim at Donald Trump in victory speech: 'Our commander in chief has to be able to defend our country, not embarrass it'

Tim Walker
Los Angeles
Wednesday 16 March 2016 07:18 GMT
Hillary Clinton claimed the delegate-rich Florida by a margin of almost two to one
Hillary Clinton claimed the delegate-rich Florida by a margin of almost two to one (Getty Images)

Hillary Clinton has reasserted her dominance of the Democratic presidential race with wins in all five of yesterday’s primaries, settling her campaign’s lingering nerves after a shock defeat to Bernie Sanders in Michigan last week.

The former Secretary of State continued her clean sweep of the South, claiming the delegate-rich Florida by a margin of almost two to one, as well as North Carolina. But her most surprising win was the last of the evening, as she squeaked past Mr Sanders to secure victory in Missouri – by less than 0.5 per cent.

Mr Sanders’ shock win in Michigan on 8 March, for which he overcame a 20-point poll deficit, had suggested the race might swing his way in the rest of the industrial Rust Belt, where Ms Clinton’s historical support for free trade policies and her cosy relationship with Wall Street could have cost her many working class votes.

Clinton and Trump take the lead in key primary wins from 'Mega Tuesday'

But the frontrunner managed to hold firm across the Midwest, prevailing in Ohio and in another closely fought contest in Illinois. Both are major states in the Democrat race, with hauls of 159 and 182 delegates respectively. Ms Clinton, who was born and grew up in Illinois, lost there in a landslide to Barack Obama during the 2008 Democratic primaries. Her victory in the Prairie State yesterday was slim but nonetheless significant.

Ms Clinton delivered her victory speech to supporters at the Palm Beach County Convention Centre in Florida, less than four miles from where her likely general election rival was toasting his own triumph at his Mar-a-Lago Club. And it was Donald Trump, not Mr Sanders, who was the focus of her rhetoric. “Our commander in chief has to be able to defend our country, not embarrass it. Engage our allies, not alienate them. Defeat our adversaries, not embolden them,” she said.

“When we hear a candidate for president call for rounding up 12 million immigrants, banning all Muslims from entering United States, when he embraces torture, that doesn't make him strong, it makes him wrong,” she went on. “We should be breaking down barriers, not building walls. We’re not going to succeed by dividing this country between us and them. You know, to be great, we can't be small.”

With Ms Clinton’s delegate lead growing to around 300, Mr Sanders looks more and more like the protest candidate he was when he first entered the race last April. But if his objective then was to drag the Democratic conversation to the left, he has vastly overachieved. Ms Clinton will now likely fight the general election against Mr Trump on a significantly more progressive platform than she would have done, had the Democratic primary been the coronation many expected.

Addressing supporters in Phoenix, Arizona, Mr Sanders again demanded the former Secretary of State release the transcripts of her recent lucrative speeches to executives at Goldman Sachs. Campaigning in the Grand Canyon State, which goes to the polls next week, the Vermont Senator vowed to fight on. While the arithmetic is against him, he most likely has sufficient delegates to stay in the race, until California – the last and biggest state of all – votes on 7 June.

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