WEST PALM BEACH, Fla., March 15 (UPI) — Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton is projected to win the Ohio, Florida and North Carolina primaries, and significantly boost her lead over Bernie Sanders in the delegate tally.
A huge number of voters in the Sunshine State cast early ballots by mail, allowing election officials to deliver quicker tallies Tuesday night. With those votes already cast, Clinton was projected to win with more than 65 percent of the vote.
In North Carolina, vote counts showed the former first lady with nearly 60 percent, compared to 38 percent for Sanders.
The race was not any closer in Ohio, which was considered friendlier territory for Sanders who scored a major upset in nearby Michigan last week. In Ohio, Clinton is projected to take about 65 percent of the vote to Sanders’ 34 percent.
Clinton, who looked every bit the candidate who was having a very good night, took the stage in West Palm Beach, where she acknowledged Sanders for running a “vigorous” campaign — then trained her victory speech on the Republican front-runner, Donald Trump.
“When [Trump] embraces torture, that doesn’t make him strong, it makes him wrong,” Clinton said. “And yes, our next president has to bring our country together. We should be breaking down barriers, not building walls. To be great we can’t be small. We can’t lose what made America great in the first place. And this isn’t just about Donald Trump. We all have to do our part.”
Tuesday’s losses could potentially have a devastating effect on Sanders’ campaign, as the race to secure delegates becomes even more important for the Vermont senator.
“I absolutely respect Sen. Sanders,” Clinton said while votes were still being cast Tuesday. “He has a right to run his campaign in any way he chooses. And I’m proud of the campaign that he and I have run because we’ve actually focused on the issues.”
With Florida and North Carolina in her column, Clinton has now swept every contest against Sanders across the South so far in the campaign, but the rest of the race Tuesday could be fought on ground more favorable to Sanders than Florida — where there is a large number of seniors and minorities supportive of the former secretary of state. That fact makes Clinton’s victory in Ohio all the more gratifying — and, for Sanders, a missed opportunity to show his Michigan upset was not a fluke.
Two other states also vote Tuesday, Illinois and Missouri.