WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. (AP) — Hillary Clinton rolled up primary victories in four states — Florida, Ohio, Illinois and North Carolina — and dealt a severe blow Tuesday to Bernie Sanders' hopes of denying her the Democratic presidential nomination.
Clinton called the outcome "another Super Tuesday" for her campaign. "We are moving closer to securing the Democratic Party nomination and winning this election in November," Clinton told cheering supporters in Florida.
Clinton was locked with Sanders in a tight contest in Missouri, the fifth primary of the day, but her string of four triumphs strengthened her already formidable pledged delegate lead, and the former secretary of state said she expected to have a more than 300-delegate edge.
Sanders, addressing supporters in Phoenix, said his campaign had "come a long way" but made no mention of Tuesday's results during an hourlong speech. "You do not have to accept the status quo. We can do better. Don't let people tell you that you can't think big," he said. Clinton and Sanders did not speak on primary night, aides said.
Early Wednesday, Sanders released a statement congratulating Clinton on her victories.
Florida was the biggest delegate prize and Clinton's victories gave her about two-thirds of the delegates needed to clinch the nomination.
With four wins, Clinton will pick up at least 326 delegates while Sanders will gain 220. Many delegates remain to be allocated pending more complete vote totals.
According to an analysis by The Associated Press, Clinton held 1,561 of total delegates when the count includes superdelegates, who are elected officials and party leaders free to support the candidate of their choice. Sanders has 800 total delegates, including superdelegates.
Looking ahead to the fall, Clinton offered pointed words for businessman Donald Trump, the Republican front-runner: "Our commander-in-chief has to be able to defend our country, not embarrass it." She said for the nation "to be great, we can't be small. We can't lose what made America great in the first place."
Democratic voters in all five states viewed Clinton as the candidate with the better chance to beat Trump if he is the Republican nominee, according to exit polls. In Florida and North Carolina, about 8 in 10 black voters supported her, and she also won support of about 7 in 10 Hispanic voters in Florida.
"She has done it. She has been there. She is the person that should replace Barack Obama," said Eduardo De Jesus, of Fort Lauderdale, Florida, who voted for Clinton.
Clinton urged Democrats in recent days to unite behind her candidacy so she could focus on Trump, the Republican front-runner. In telling campaign optics, Clinton staged Tuesday's primary night rally in West Palm Beach, a few miles from Mar-a-Lago, where Trump held a news conference at his Palm Beach estate.
Late Tuesday, Sanders held a narrow lead in Missouri and trailed Clinton in Illinois, a state where he hoped his trade-focused message would resonate. It helped him pull off an upset in Michigan last week and he continued to question Clinton's past support for trade deals such as the North American Free Trade Agreement.
Sanders' team said the calendar would be more favorable in the weeks ahead and vowed to go through the Democratic convention. After Tuesday, the campaign shifts westward, with contests in Arizona, Idaho and Utah on March 22. "He wants to take this all the way to Philadelphia," said Sanders adviser Tad Devine.
Thomas reported from Washington. Associated Press writers Hope Yen in Washington, Nicholas Riccardi in Phoenix and Alex Sanz in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., contributed to this report.
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