Clinton under pressure to finish off Sanders threat
Hillary Clinton was under massive pressure yesterday to do well in two Democratic nominating contests in Kentucky and Oregon so she can concentrate on the US election.
She is being battered by increasingly hostile attacks by Republican candidate Donald Trump. The continued presence in the race of Bernie Sanders - who remains a long shot to upset Ms Clinton and win the Democratic nomination - is prompting concerns among Clinton allies that he will damage her ability to take on Mr Trump.
But many supporters of Mr Sanders are not worried about any ill effects of the US senator remaining in the race, arguing that Mr Trump is such a flawed candidate that Ms Clinton will easily win if she faces him in the November 8 election.
"Either way, we're going to get a Democratic president," argued Alisha Liedtke (28), a Sanders supporter from Ellensburg, Washington.
In interviews with 14 voters who back the Vermont senator, supporters said they are not concerned that Mr Trump, the presumptive Republican nominee, might succeed US President Barack Obama because they do not believe the real estate mogul could win the general election.
They said Mr Sanders should keep fighting until the Democratic National Convention in July, to push Ms Clinton to the left and challenge her ties to Wall Street and support for free-trade deals.
Allies of Ms Clinton have held back from overt calls for Mr Sanders to exit the race. Any moves by her campaign to try to drive Mr Sanders out could risk angering Democratic voters and end up backfiring.
So Ms Clinton must continue her primary fight in Kentucky and Oregon, where analysts predict she will have a hard time winning. The Democratic race is unlikely to wrap up before California, New Jersey and several other states vote on June 7.
Oregon, with a heavily white, liberal population, politically resembles its northern neighbour Washington, which voted for Mr Sanders. Oregon voters cast their ballots by mail, meaning voting there actually began in the last week of April.
After Mr Sanders won both West Virginia and Indiana, analysts said he has a good chance of taking Kentucky. But Louisville and the western part of the state are more moderate politically, and Ms Clinton spent the past few days campaigning there.
Mr Sanders has insisted that he will stay in the presidential election until the Democratic convention on July 25-28, but Democratic strategist Jim Manley said Mr Sanders should be careful he does not end up helping Mr Trump.
"I have no problem with Senator Sanders staying in until the end," said Mr Manley, who supports Ms Clinton. "If that's what he chooses to do, I just hope he plays it smart and doesn't give the Trump campaign any more ammunition than it already has to take on Hillary Clinton."
Some Democrats are concerned Mr Trump could repeat any criticisms Mr Sanders makes about Ms Clinton.
Clinton allies also fear that Mr Sanders could so damage the former US Secretary of State in the eyes of his supporters that they will choose not to vote in November if he is not on the ballot.
Sanders supporters played down this concern. Jeremy Schofield (45), from Albuquerque, said he would flip to Ms Clinton if she's the nominee. He thinks the long primary process is helping, not hurting, the Democratic Party.
"I think it's important for him to continue to demonstrate that there is an awful lot of support for those policies," Mr Schofield said of Mr Sanders. "I'm not terribly concerned about Trump being elected."