MIAMI (AP) — Bernie Sanders' campaign claimed fresh momentum Wednesday after the senator's upset victory in Michigan. But Hillary Clinton's campaign pointed to her growing delegate lead and predicted it would soon have an "insurmountable" advantage as the nomination fight looked to drag deep into spring.
Sanders' campaign manager Jeff Weaver called Michigan a "game-changer" in the Democratic presidential contest and said it would bode well for the Vermont senator in primaries next week in Ohio, Illinois and Missouri. He vowed to contest the three Midwest states along with Florida and North Carolina, which also vote on March 15, a shift from a more selective approach in the Super Tuesday states earlier this month.
"We're running hard in all the states," said Weaver, pointing to Sanders' advertising in the five states. "This is not pick-and-choose on March 15. We're competing everywhere."
Clinton campaign manager Robby Mook countered that despite the loss in Michigan, where polls showed Clinton with a comfortable lead in recent weeks, the contours of the race had not changed. He said Clinton's pledged delegate lead of more than 200 would continue to grow and soon foreclose any path to victory for Sanders.
"We are confident we are nearing the point where our delegate lead will effectively become insurmountable," Mook said Wednesday.
Sanders was energized by his narrow win in Michigan, where he warned that "disastrous" trade deals supported by Clinton had led to job loss and an erosion of the state's famed auto industry and manufacturing base. Clinton dominated in Mississippi, meanwhile, helped once again by overwhelming support among black voters in the South.
Despite Sanders' Michigan triumph, Clinton netted more delegates in Tuesday's contests. Clinton has 762 pledged delegates compared with 549 for Sanders, according to a count by The Associated Press, with 10 delegates from recent primaries to be allocated. When the total includes superdelegates, who are party leaders free to support the candidate of their choice, Clinton's edge swells to 1,223 to 574, putting her more than halfway to the nomination.
Mook predicted in a conference call with reporters that the races in Ohio, Illinois and Missouri would be competitive next week but he said Clinton was in a "strong position" in Florida and North Carolina, where she planned to campaign after Wednesday night's debate. He expressed confidence that the campaign would add to its delegate lead next week.
But Sanders' campaign contends that the map will get more fortuitous for the senator after March 15. Looking forward, Weaver said Sanders had the "possibility of running the table at the end of the month" when several Western states, including Arizona, Utah, Washington state, hold their contests. Wisconsin holds a pivotal primary on April 5 and Weaver said the campaign was preparing for a "big showdown" in New York's April 19 primary, which would pit Sanders against Clinton in the state she represented in the Senate for eight years.
"We have a real opportunity to win in New York," he said, adding: "We have a pathway to actually ending the primary and caucus process with more pledged delegates."
Associated Press writer Hope Yen in Washington contributed to this report.