Who Will Win Oregon, Kentucky Primary Elections? Bernie Sanders Favored, But Hillary Clinton Could Stage Comeback

Two more Democratic primary elections are set for Tuesday, May 17, in Oregon and Kentucky, as front-runner Hillary Clinton continues to battle the never-say-die underdog Bernie Sanders. The Vermont senator, who spent his entire 27 years on Capitol Hill as a registered independent before running for president as a Democrat, has been mathematically eliminated from winning the party’s nomination with pledged delegates alone.

But Sanders soldiers on with his campaign in hopes that a late surge of momentum will persuade superdelegates — elected legislators and Democratic party officials who may vote however they choose at the Democratic convention — to support him rather than Clinton.

Sanders won the West Virginia primary last Tuesday, the Indiana primary the week before that, and his campaign believes that Oregon and Kentucky also provide friendly turf for Sanders to put together his home-stretch winning streak that will somehow change the minds of enough superdelegates to give him the nomination on what Sanders and his top aides continue to insist will be a “contested convention” in Philadelphia.

Watch Bernie Sanders hold a rally in Salem, Oregon, last week, in the video below.

But who will win the Oregon and Kentucky primary elections on Tuesday? While polling has been sparse or even non-existent in the two states so far, new data has emerged in the past week that suggests Hillary Clinton may have a much better shot than previously believed at upsetting Bernie Sanders in one or both contests, bringing his hoped-for “momentum” to a halt.

Actually, Clinton won the Guam Democratic caucus on May 7, and also won the non-binding Nebraska primary on May 10, so Sanders “winning streak” has already been interrupted.

The Nebraska primary, with no pledged delegates at stake, was largely a symbolic victory for Clinton. However, her 59-40 margin of victory raised serious questions about Sanders’ true strength as a candidate after Sanders had earlier won the state’s Democratic caucus, which had a much lower voter turnout, 57-42.


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With its highly liberal politics and overwhelmingly white population — two elements that have generally signaled a Bernie Sanders victory this campaign season — Oregon was widely believed to represent an easy win for Sanders.

But the lone poll taken in the state and released earlier this week reveals a picture so startlingly different from the conventional wisdom that it left many political observers skeptical.

The poll, conducted for KPTV by DHM Research shows Hillary Clinton, not Bernie Sanders, poised for a big Oregon victory Tuesday, with a whopping 15-point lead of 48 percent to just 33 for Sanders.

Benchmark Politics, which bases its projections largely on demographics, used the poll as a seed to run its numbers and came up with a closer race — but still, a Clinton victory in Oregon, with a one-point margin of 50.5 percent to 49.5. Benchmark cautions, however, that those numbers could shift if any further polls are released before Tuesday.

DHM pollster John Horvick told the Los Angeles Times on Friday that a large turnout by young voters, as well as by the roughly 65,000 newly registered Democrats in the state, could turn the results in Sanders favor, saying that he was uncertain whether his poll had correctly accounted for those potential voters.

But even when Horvick adjusted the polls numbers to take a higher turnout by young voters and new Democrats into account, Clinton still came out on top, albeit by a narrower 45-38 margin.

Oregon holds a “closed” primary, meaning that only registered Democrats — not independents — may vote in the party’s primary election there. Bernie Sanders has yet to win a closed primary. Even in West Virginia where Sanders defeated Clinton by almost 16 percentage points, Clinton won among voters who identified as Democrats.

The PredictWise projection model, which uses market indicators to make its predictions, sees a big victory for Sanders in Oregon, giving the Vermont senator a 78 percent chance of winning there. But in Kentucky, PredictWise favors Clinton, 64-36.

There has been no polling in Kentucky, and the state’s demographics — an African-American population of only about 8 percent — and dependence on a coal mining economy would seem to bode well for Sanders.

But Clinton has longtime relationships with Democrats in Kentucky, whose voters tend to be less liberal than in Oregon. Kentucky also holds a closed primary. And early Benchmark Politics forecast sees Clinton winning narrowly in Kentucky as well.

No matter who will win the Democratic primary elections in Oregon and Kentucky on Tuesday, the overall state of the race is unlikely to change in any significant way, with Bernie Sanders needing to win at least 66 percent of the vote in both states to take enough delegates for his campaign to make a dent in the lead held by Hillary Clinton.

[Photos by Rich Pedroncelli/Star Max/Associated Press]