Clinton solidifies lead with wins in 7 states

MIAMI — Hillary Clinton widened her lead over Democratic rival Bernie Sanders as minority voters helped her secure key victories in seven states in the Super Tuesday contests. Sanders won four states and pledged to stay in the race, but failed to broaden his appeal beyond whites.

Clinton carried Georgia, Virginia, Arkansas, Alabama, Tennessee, Texas and Massachusetts while Sanders won his home state of Vermont as well as Oklahoma, Minnesota and Colorado.

READ MORE: How Clinton won the black vote in South Carolina

Clinton had aimed for a sweep of Southern states in the delegate-heavy series of primaries and caucuses Tuesday before losing Oklahoma.

“We will need all of you to keep volunteering, doing everything you can, talking to your friends and neighbors, because this country belongs to all of us,” Clinton told supporters in Miami as the results arrived.

Clinton and her allies have already shifted some attention to Donald Trump, casting the Republican front-runner as divisive and unprepared to lead the country. “It’s clear tonight that the stakes in this election have never been higher and the rhetoric we’re hearing on the other side has never been lower,” she said.

READ MORE: Trump extends dominance as GOP starts to panic

Hillary Clinton has won a majority of Super Tuesday delegates.

Her wins in seven states earned her at least 457 of the 865 delegates at stake for the evening. Sanders is on track to win at least 286.

The Democratic contests award delegates in proportion to the vote, meaning that even the loser wins some. Votes are still being tallied to determine the final margins of victory in several states.

Including superdelegates, Clinton now has at least 1,005 delegates in the overall AP delegate count. Sanders has at least 373. It takes 2,382 delegates to win.

Black voters gave Clinton a huge advantage throughout the South.

Of the seven Southern states that voted Tuesday, Clinton got more than 8 in 10 black votes everywhere but Oklahoma, where three-quarters of blacks backed her. Blacks made up made up more than a quarter of the votes overall. But that ranged from nearly half in Alabama and Georgia to about 15 percent in Oklahoma and Texas.

Greta Lewis voted with her mother at the Central Christian Church in Memphis. Both women are black and chose Clinton.

“She has been the one who has stepped out to at least try to identify with most of the minorities, whether they’re women, black, Asian, Hispanic,” said Lewis, a 31-year-old receptionist at her mother’s dental office.

Clinton also expanded her base. She made inroads on Super Tuesday with voters between 30 and 44 years old, a group that was about evenly split between the two candidates. Sanders had led among all voters under age 45 in the first three contests of the year, in Iowa, New Hampshire and Nevada.

READ MORE: Why many voters in Sanders’ old Brooklyn neighborhood are backing Trump

Exit polling showed voters pushing to continue President Barack Obama’s policies rather than the kind of leftward shift championed by Sanders.

Sanders decamped to his home in Burlington, Vermont. He has vowed to stay in the race until the party’s convention — and he showed no signs of retreating as he addressed a raucous rally of supporters.

“Thirty-five states remain and let me assure you that we are going to take our fight for economic justice, for social justice, for environmental sanity, for a world of peace, to every one of those states.” Sanders said.

Despite his obstacles, the Vermont senator has little incentive to fold. He reported raising more than $42 million in February, a sign that he will have the money to go deep into the spring.

Thomas reported from Essex Junction, Vermont. Associated Press writers Josh Boak and Hope Yen in Washington contributed to this report.

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