Washington / AFP
US states Alaska, Hawaii and Washington take their turn voting on Saturday in the Democratic presidential nominating contest, with Hillary Clinton unlikely to deliver a knockout blow against resilient rival Bernie Sanders.
The trio of western caucuses marks a chance for Vermont Senator Sanders, a self-described democratic socialist, to chisel away at Clintonâ€™s formidable lead in the delegate count.
Sanders gave a rousing rendition of his standard stump speech late Friday in Seattle, Washington, just hours ahead of the caucus there, inveighing against police brutality, a too-low minimum wage, and soaring student debt and other ills.
â€œReal change historically always takes place from the bottom on up when millions of people come together,â€ Sanders said to applause and cheers from the crowd in Seattleâ€™s Safeco baseball stadium.
â€œWe need a political revolution!â€
But even if the insurgent candidate makes a clean sweep of Saturdayâ€™s votes, he still has a steep climb to get within striking distance of Clinton.
She has a commanding lead in the delegate race with 1711, including super-delegates who are un-elected by voters, compared to 952 for Sanders, according to a CNN count.
To win the Democratic nomination, 2,383 delegates are needed.
On the campaign trail, the former secretary of state has already shifted her focus toward Novemberâ€™s general election.
Clinton delivered a somber counterterrorism speech in the aftermath of deadly attacks in Brussels, using it as an opportunity to launch vigorous assaults on Republican candidates Donald Trump and Ted Cruz and warn that their â€œrecklessâ€ foreign policies would harm US interests.
â€œWe need to rely on what actually works,â€ she said, â€œnot bluster that alienates our partners and doesnâ€™t make us any safer.â€
Clinton has a commanding lead in the delegate race: 1711, including super-delegates who are un-elected by voters, compared to 951 for Sanders, according to a CNN count.
But Sanders has refused to throw in the towel, repeatedly stressing that his grassroots campaign is heading all the way to the nominating convention in Philadelphia in July. Washington is Saturdayâ€™s biggest prize with 101 pledged delegates up for grabs. When Sanders brought his message of â€œpolitical revolutionâ€ to a Seattle, Washington arena last Sunday, an estimated 17,000 people showed up.
The Pacific island state of Hawaii, birthplace of President Barack Obama, has 25 delegates at stake. Remote Alaska has 16.
There has been little reliable polling in the three states, but at least in Washington Sanders can take comfort in previous results.
Hillaryâ€™s husband Bill Clinton placed fourth in Washington in the 1992 nominations race, while Democrats there overwhelmingly backed Obama over Hillary Clinton in 2008.