Such a result would only serve to underscore the awkward position that Sanders, Clinton and the Democratic Party face as the presidential primary campaign continues into its endgame.
Clinton is just 155 delegates short of the 2,383 she needs to secure the nomination. To win them, she needs just 17 percent of the delegates at stake in the remaining contests.
Still, Sanders is vowing to fight on. He campaigned in California on Tuesday for the state’s June 7 primary.
Republicans voted in West Virginia and Nebraska on Tuesday, a week after Donald Trump cleared the field of his remaining rivals with a big win in Indiana. That victory silenced speculation that he might fall short of a delegate majority in the primary season, forcing a contested convention. But it didn’t heal party wounds by a longshot, as some GOP leaders have held off on endorsing him.
Some voters weren’t happy Tuesday that Trump was their only real choice in the Republican primaries.
In Omaha, Nebraska, 62-year-old Vicki Baines said her favorite Republicans didn’t make it to the top four and joked that when she voted, she wrote in a fictional character she could trust: “I’m sticking with my man Pinocchio.” Expressing astonishment that Trump made it this far, Dave George, 47, voted for Cruz in Lincoln even though the Texas senator is out of the race.
While Sanders is still attracting thousands to rallies, his campaign has grown harder as Clinton closes in on the nomination. His fundraising has fallen off and so, too, has his advertising, with only about $525,000 in ads planned for California and $63,000 each in West Virginia and Oregon, according to advertising tracker Kantar Media’s CMAG.
That’s a significant decline from the wall-to-wall advertising campaign he ran earlier in the primary, during which his $74 million in ads outspent Clinton by $14 million.
Edward Milam, of Cross Lanes, West Virginia, is a self-described socialist who gave money to the Sanders campaign but his vote Tuesday to Clinton.
“After about six-seven months of debating and watching, I think Hillary has a lot more to offer than Bernie internationally,” the 68-year-old retiree said. “I think she handles herself well. I’ve known about her for 30 years, just like everybody else has. I don’t think there will be any surprises.”
Even as the primaries continue, Clinton has largely shifted her focus to the general election. On Monday, she courted suburban women in Virginia and on Tuesday, in Lexington, Kentucky, she released a proposal to ensure families don’t spend more than 10 percent of their income on child care.
Clinton’s campaign hopes suburban women, turned off by Trump’s bombastic rhetoric, could be a key source of support for her in the fall.
But she’s also trying to stop Sanders from gaining the psychological advantage of a series of wins this month. Her team went up with a $160,000 ad buy in Kentucky on Tuesday, a modest effort aimed at cutting into Sanders’ support before the state’s primary in a week.
Democrats also held a primary election Tuesday in Nebraska, although the party allocated all its delegates to the summer nominating convention in an earlier caucus won by Sanders.
Lerer reported from Washington. Associated Press writers John Raby in West Virginia and Josh Funk and Grant Schulte in Nebraska contributed to this report.