The News Journal | by Adam Duvernay & James Fisher
Results of Tuesday’s primary showed the First State’s commitment to its established Democratic Party and the power of an outsider to mobilize traditionally poor-showing Republicans in a part of Delaware accustomed to losing elections.
Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton won Delaware’s piece of a heated primary season, collecting 55,950 votes, with nearly 60 percent of the total Democratic ballot. Billionaire Donald Trump trounced his two competitors with 42,472 votes, accumulating almost 61 percent of the total from his party.
Tuesday’s victory was Clinton’s first in Delaware. In 2008, she lost the primary to then-U.S. Sen. Barack Obama after Joe Biden had dropped out of the race.
About 147,000 voted in Delaware’s 2008 primary, when the state’s party voters gave majority support to Obama and U.S. Sen. John McCain.
A total of 163,525 Delawareans voted Tuesday. Statewide, there were 312,260 registered Democrats in April, a 2 percent increase from a year ago. There were 185,134 Republicans in April, a 2.5 percent increase from the previous year.
Delaware voters cast 36,659 ballots for longshot presidential candidate U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders, of Vermont, giving him only 39 percent of the statewide Democratic vote.
“Delaware has spoken, so I’ll probably put my superdelegate vote toward her. That’s where I think I should be,” said state Rep. Valerie Longhurst, D-Bear, who told The News Journal last week she would vote in Philadelphia for whomever won the state Tuesday. “It pretty much was a landslide in my district for Hillary.” Clinton took 12 of the state’s 21 delegates. Delaware also has 10 “superdelegates” who are allowed to change their allegiance any time before voting starts at the national convention in Philadelphia, but half already have declared for Clinton. Now, the ones waiting to vote the will of the state may throw their weight behind Clinton as well.
Tuesday’s primaries came too soon for the newly forged and fragile alliance between U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, of Texas, and Ohio Gov. John Kasich to make an impact. The candidates, now desperately trying to knock Trump down before he reaches the 1,237 delegates needed to clinch to nomination, lost all five states that voted Tuesday.
Clinton won four of five states; Sanders took Rhode Island.
Kasich was runner-up in Delaware, capturing 20 percent of the vote. Cruz only managed about 16 percent.
Trump walked away from the Delaware contest with all 16 Republican delegates.
Rob Arlett, Trump’s campaign chairman in Delaware, said he was thrilled Trump was on track to earn more than 60 percent of the GOP vote.
“There’s been a loud message that has been sent today by Delaware’s voters,” Arlett said. “My next focus is to ensure that the 16 delegates this state will send to that national convention are a true reflection of this state’s results.”
Clinton and Trump wins in Delaware – small parts of the larger victories Tuesday – were no surprise for those who’ve been watching the state’s politics.
Delaware Democrats are more likely to vote closer to the center than for the far-left policies espoused by Sanders, and the recent surge in people registering as Republicans in the state is easily attributable to Trump, according to Delaware State University political science professor Samuel Hoff.
Sussex County Democratic Committee Chairman Mitch Crane wasn’t surprised by the results and said Clinton’s victories on Tuesday will help the party by putting the divisive primary closer to an end.
“On to the next bout. Hillary is getting very close and Trump is showing he’s able to recover from challenges,” Hoff said. “I would call this the night of the behemoths.”
Trump’s supporters in Delaware, Hoff said, are the ones looking for the “anti-government” candidate — and it doesn’t get more anti-government than Trump.Despite putting stops in Wilmington on their most recent schedules, Clinton and Sanders didn’t make vigorous plays in a state normally written off as insignificant to the final delegate count. That strategy worked better for Clinton, Hoff said, better known to voters and supported by the state establishment who campaigned on her behalf.
“Hopefully we can bring this contest to an end and unite the party so Hillary can turn her sights to defeating Donald Trump in November,” Crane said. “We haven’t had a more qualified candidate for president in a long, long time.”
Sanders’ campaign already was facing an uphill climb before Tuesday’s contests, and the “narrow path” to the nomination he’d spent the last week talking about in media interviews became less feasible once the votes were counted.
For some, the results Tuesday showed the inevitable collapse of a longshot campaign. Others, such Sanders supporter state Rep. John Kowalko, D-Newark, said it shows the sad state of the Democratic Party in general and the state party leaders in particular.
“Delaware is a corporate-run state. Delaware is a banking industry-run state,” Kowalko said. “They’re being well served by the status quo in Delaware. It’s evident by our own representative body, which is not willing to risk access to the money that will preserve their positions.”