Democratic presidential candidates Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders will return to Kentucky this weekend as they battle for bragging rights in the Bluegrass State.
Though Kentucky is a small state in helping a presidential candidate secure delegate votes at this summer’s nominating convention, it is playing a big role this year in the race for the Democratic presidential nomination.
“We’re getting all this attention because Kentucky is a state that should favor Hillary but Bernie is still around,” said University of Kentucky political science professor Stephen Voss.
“The national headlines for Kentucky’s primary election are either going to say ‘Clinton slows down Sanders in Kentucky’ or ‘Sanders keeps the momentum,’” Voss said. “They both are seeking the headline they want to try to influence upcoming primary elections in other states that provide many more delegates than Kentucky offers.”
Sanders, a U.S. senator from Vermont, plans to kick off a two-day swing through Kentucky on Saturday. He campaigned in Lexington and Louisville last week.
He will hold rallies Saturday evening at The Historic Railpark and Train Museum in Bowling Green and Sunday afternoon at the Julian Carroll Convention Center in Paducah.
The Clinton campaign said she will attend a Get Out the Vote event at 2:15 p.m. Sunday at the Union of Carpenters and Millwrights Training Center in Louisville and will stop in Covington later in the day. On Monday, she is to visit Bowling Green and Lexington. Details about the Covington, Bowling Green and Lexington events were to be released later.
The former secretary of state and U.S. senator campaigned in Lexington and Louisville Tuesday, and her husband, former President Bill Clinton, made his second trip to Kentucky this month on Thursday. He spoke at rallies in Owensboro, Frankfort and Prestonsburg and made a surprise stop at Thursday Night Live in downtown Lexington.
At stake in Kentucky’s Democratic presidential primary election Tuesday are 55 pledged delegates to the July 25-28 Democratic presidential nominating convention in Philadelphia. (Kentucky Republicans held their presidential caucus on March 5, which was won by Donald Trump.)
Kentucky’s delegates will be apportioned to the candidates according to the percentage of votes each person wins, said Daniel Lowry, spokesman for the Kentucky Democratic Party. A presidential candidate must get at least 15 percent of the total vote to earn delegates.
Kentucky Democrats will have 60 total delegates to the convention — including five “unpledged” delegates, also known as “superdelegates,” said Lowry. Five alternates also will be elected.
An unpledged delegate is a delegate to the convention that is seated automatically, based on their status as a current or former party leader or elected official. They may vote for any candidate.
All the pledged delegates, which must support a candidate based on primary election results, will be elected on June 4 at the state convention in Louisville.
According to Friday’s Associated Press count, Clinton is leading Sanders in the national delegate count, 2,240 to 1,473. A total of 2,383 are needed to win the nomination. Still available are 1,052.
Of Clinton’s totals, 1,716 are pledged and 524 unpledged. Sanders has 1,433 pledged and 40 unpledged.
Tuesday’s presidential primary elections in Kentucky, with its 55 pledged delegates, and in Oregon, with its 61 delegates, will not let any candidate clinch the national nomination.
That is likely to come June 7 when 694 delegates are up for grabs in six states, including 475 in California and 126 in New Jersey. The last primary will be June 14 for 20 delegates in the District of Columbia.
Theoretically, Clinton should do well in Louisville and Lexington, and among conservative Democrats in Western Kentucky, Voss said.
“The only place that may be really hard for her is Eastern Kentucky, but even there, she has a lot of friends with her strong ties to the Democratic establishment,” he said.
He noted that former Democratic Gov. Steve Beshear endorsed her this week and the Clintons have close ties to former Democratic Party chairman Jerry Lundergan of Lexington and his daugher, Kentucky Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes.
“But yet there is a golden opportunity for Sanders to get good publicity out of Kentucky,” said Voss.
If Sanders does well in Kentucky, said Voss, “it would give him bragging rights to continue his campaign.”
He said Sanders should win easily in Oregon “because it mainly is white, male liberals.”
Though most of the “super” delegates lean towards Clinton, “Sanders is hoping with big momentum on his side he could attract some of them,” Voss said.
Former state Democratic Party chairwoman Jennifer Moore of Louisville, who is backing Clinton, said the national delegate count favors Clinton “but the primary race is not over.”
“It looks like he’s going to stay in the race until Hillary actually reaches the number of national convention delegates to lock up the nomination,” she said.