Hillary Clinton is winning the Democratic presidential nomination by essentially promising to extend Barack Obama’s legacy.
But it’s unclear whether that message will work in a general election where angry voters across the nation have rejected the status quo.
On Tuesday, Clinton rolled up primary victories in Florida, Illinois, Ohio and North Carolina, dealing a severe blow to Bernie Sanders’ bid to slow her march toward the nomination.
Early today, shortly after midnight, it appeared as if Clinton would pull off a roughly 1,500-vote win in Missouri, but with two precincts outstanding, state officials told CNN they had stopped counting and will resume later today.
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“We are moving closer to securing the Democratic Party nomination and winning this election in November,” Clinton told cheering supporters in Florida, calling it “another Super Tuesday for our campaign.”
Sanders, addressing supporters in Phoenix, said his campaign had “come a long way” but made no mention of Tuesday’s results during an hourlong speech. “The reason we have defied all expectations is that we are doing something very radical in American politics — we are telling the truth,” he said.
Florida was the biggest delegate prize, and Clinton’s victories put her in a position to end the day with about two-thirds of the delegates needed to clinch the nomination.
With the three wins, Clinton will pick up at least 253 delegates, and Sanders will gain 124. Many delegates remain to be allocated pending more complete vote totals.
Voters in both parties say they are fed up with lawmakers in Washington, stagnant wages, companies sending jobs overseas and terrorist threats.
They have fueled the popularity of Republican Donald Trump, the brash businessman turned reality TV star; and Bernie Sanders, an independent senator from Vermont who promised to start a political revolution.
“Sanders and Trump represent a threat to the existing order on both sides,” said Peter A. Brown, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Poll.
Clinton’s wins Tuesday, including North Carolina, Florida and Ohio, further solidified her virtually insurmountable lead to be the Democratic Party’s presumptive nominee. She leads in two other states, Illinois and Missouri.
In her victory speech Tuesday in Florida, Clinton praised Obama for his work before pivoting to Trump, using one of his lines to criticize him without saying his name.
“You know, to be great, we can’t be small,” she said. “We can’t lose what made America great in the first place.”
Sanders plans to stay in the race despite huge losses “especially in Southern states with large minority populations” and an improbable ability to catch up with Clinton’s lead in delegates.
Clinton has 15 states, compared with nine for Sanders. But he has been buoyed by a come-from-behind win last week in Michigan as well as a smattering of other states, where he has been popular with young and financially struggling voters.
He received delegates even in states he lost because Democrats award them proportionally. Clinton retains a massive advantage among superdelegates, Democratic leaders who can back any candidate regardless of how their states vote.
A Clinton-Trump general election seems more likely as Trump won Tuesday in Florida, Illinois and North Carolina.
Clinton has portrayed herself as a pragmatic leader who would build on Obama’s legacy and work with Republicans and Democrats to get things done in a town where little gets done.
She has embraced Obama, defending him on the Affordable Care Act, and endorsed his overhaul of the nation’s financial regulatory system. She accused Sanders of calling Obama “weak” and “disappointing” and even said he tried to find a primary opponent for him in 2012.
“I don’t think he gets the credit he deserves,” she says repeatedly.
In Ohio, 49 percent of primary voters said they wanted to continue Obama’s policies, according to preliminary exit polls. Of those, 71 percent supported Clinton.
In North Carolina, 81 percent of primary voters said the nominee should have experience in politics, according to preliminary exit polls. Sixty percent of them voted for Clinton.
But Clinton has had a surprisingly tough fight for the nomination from Sanders, a self-described democratic socialist who has successfully drawn on anger building in the country for the so-called billionaire class. He continues to receive millions of dollars in small, largely online donations and to draw thousands of enthusiastic supporters to his rallies.
Tom Davis, a former long-term Republican congressman in Virginia who sits on the board of No Labels, which strives to find common ground in Washington, said that unlike Sanders, Clinton is running on her résumé, but not a message. “He has a message, like it or not,” he said. Davis predicts that some Sanders supporters may eventually support Trump.
Roughly 4 in 10 Republican voters said they are angry, according to preliminary exit polls in the five contests Tuesday.
Sanders won Michigan by tapping into angst over trade, manufacturing and the overall economic outlook, primarily for lower-income workers in industrial Midwestern states.
As she has seen voters’ frustrations grow in her own party, Clinton has adopted Sanders’ message and even his language sometimes when speaking about income equality, and in opposing a large Pacific trade agreement that she once called the gold standard.
“Hillary Clinton won Ohio and had a Super Tuesday by riding the economic populist tide instead of fighting it,” said Adam Green, co-founder of the Progressive Change Campaign Committee. “Clinton has engaged Bernie Sanders in a race to the top on key issues like expanding Social Security instead of cutting it, breaking up too-big-to-fail banks, jailing Wall Street executives who break the law, and debt-free college. That was almost unimaginable a year ago.”
An NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll taken in November found deep frustration, with nearly 7 in 10 Americans agreeing they were angry that the political system “seems to only be working for the insiders with money and power, like those on Wall Street or in Washington.”
Polls continue to find that a majority of Americans don’t trust Clinton, in part because of her use of a personal email system while secretary of state and in part because of her decision to accept campaign contributions and speaking fees from Wall Street.
This report includes material from The Associated Press and the Tribune Washington Bureau.