Sanders defeats Clinton in Wisconsin, but barely dents her delegate lead

Updated

Bernie Sanders picked up a bigger-than-expected win Tuesday in Wisconsin’s primary, casting light on Hillary Clinton’s lingering vulnerabilities with parts of the Democratic coalition while doing little to slow her path to the eventual nomination.

The presidential campaign: Bernie Sanders
The self-described democratic socialist is known for pushing change on income inequality, college affordability and criminal justice reform.
The win will almost certainly translate into a fundraising windfall worth several million dollars for Sanders, and give him a boost of momentum ahead of New York’s critical primary two weeks from now. But while the victory keeps Sanders on the path his advisers insist can still lead him to the Democratic nomination, the delegates he netted from Wisconsin will do little to veer Clinton off her course.

By 1:15 a.m. ET, NBC News said Sanders had won 46 delegates to Clinton’s 36 in in Wisconsin on Tuesday. In addition, Clinton had already secured seven super-delegates there — making the state’s overall count much closer.

The front-runner had all but conceded Wisconsin, sending fundraising emails to her supporters during the previous 24 hours preparing them for defeat. While still the heavy favorite for her party’s nomination, Clinton hasn’t won a contest since Arizona on March 22, and is likely to go almost a full month until her next chance to notch a win in the Empire State on April 19.

Wyoming holds a caucus on Saturday, and all evidence points to a Sanders rout. The Vermont senator has won every state bordering Wyoming that has already voted, and caucuses in the overwhelmingly white Mountain West have delivered Sanders some of the biggest victories of the year.

RELATED: Exit Polls: Sanders beats Clinton thanks to support from young voters, men

That’s where Sanders spent Tuesday rallying with supporters and giving his victory speech and touting his “momentum.”

“With our victory tonight in Wisconsin, we have won seven of the last eight caucuses and primaries. And we have won almost all of them with landslide numbers,” he said. 

Clinton, meanwhile, skipped the public events she usually holds on election nights. 

Instead, she attended a fundraiser at a private home in the Bronx, New York. All 60 attendees were required to donate $10,000 each in order to attend. The event was hosted by the CEO of an animal food company.

4/5/16, 11:09 PM ET

Watch Bernie Sanders' primary night speech

Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders addresses supporters after his primary victory in Wisconsin.
“Congrats to @BernieSanders on winning Wisconsin. To all the voters and volunteers who poured your hearts into this campaign: Forward!” Clinton tweeted.

Anticipating a loss in Wisconsin weeks ago, Clinton’s campaign mostly kept the her away from the state while Sanders campaigned vigorously there. Sanders out-spent Clinton on television advertising in the state by a more than 2-1 margin. 

Polls showed a tight contest and Sanders allies worried he would finish with too-narrow a victory to net very many delegates. His final margin is likely to beat expectations, but still fall well short of Barack Obama’s 18 percentage point triumph over Clinton in 2008.

As much as Tuesday’s victory will fuel Sanders’ supporters enthusiasm that he stay in the race, the 15 delegates he is expected to net will only knocks about 1/17th off of Clinton’s 255 lead.

“Tonight’s results do little to change the overall delegate math,” said Brad Woodhouse, the President of Correct The Record, a pro-Clinton super PAC that coordinates directly with the Clinton campaign.

On Monday, Clinton’s campaign manager released a memo calling Clinton’s delegate lead “nearly  insurmountable.”

RELATED: Battle for New York looms for Democrats

The results in Wisconsin underscored each of the candidates biggest demographic weaknesses. 

For Sanders, it’s people of color. Even though he won the state, thanks to its largely Caucasian complexion, he lost nonwhites six-to-four. And his strength came in part due to independents, who broke for Sanders seven-to-three. But most upcoming contests are closed primaries, meaning only registered Democrats can participate.  

For Clinton, her demographic Achilles heel remains young people.

She has struggled in every contest with younger voters, but the exit polls paint a particularly difficult picture for likely Democratic nominee. Sanders took roughly 80 percent of 18-29 year olds, and even won 30-50 year olds handily. Clinton won only among those over 50, and put up her best numbers with those over 65. 

Young people are a key piece of the Democratic coalition and presidential nominees count on them to be the foot soldiers of the party in general elections. 

And Clinton also struggled with men, winning few than four in 10, while she broke even with women. 

Meanwhile, the party has shifted to the left while Clinton has been in public life. The Democratic primary electorate in the state considered itself more liberal than it did eight years ago. A quarter of voters described themselves as very liberal this year, compared to just 16 percent in 2008. 

Sanders and Clinton will devote the next two weeks to New York, where 247 delegates are at stake and both candidates have personal connections. The state will be a key inflection point in the race, determining whether Sanders’ already far-fetched path to victory has any hope.

Bernie Sanders, Hillary Clinton and Wisconsin

Sanders defeats Clinton in Wisconsin, but barely dents her delegate lead

Updated