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Sweet: African-American voters boost Clinton in Illinois

Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton speaks at an election night event at the Palm Beach County Convention Center in West Palm Beach, Florida, on Tuesday, March 15, 2016. | Carolyn Kaster/AP

Tuesday was a big night for Hillary Clinton, pushing her closer to becoming the Democratic presidential nominee.

By the time Clinton clinched home-state Illinois — but by a narrow margin — she had already added to her substantial delegate lead over Bernie Sanders by winning in Florida, North Carolina and Ohio.

Sanders staked a lot on his late-breaking Mayor Rahm Emanuel strategy, enough to really worry Clinton’s team.

In the final week of his Illinois campaign, Sanders attacked Clinton because she was backed by the unpopular mayor. It was a clever way of appealing to African-American voters in Chicago.

Clinton won Illinois bolstered by votes from Chicago and Cook County. Sanders was favored over Clinton in most of the other Illinois counties.

Because Democratic Illinois delegates are awarded on a proportional basis, Sanders will come out of Illinois with delegates to show — but in the big national picture, Sanders has a steep hill to climb in the remaining primaries to catch up to Clinton.

Illinois exit polls show that Clinton secured the overwhelming support of African-American voters, groups her campaign worked especially hard when it seemed — even as late as Monday — that Sanders might win because of his Emanuel gambit.

About 60 percent of the Illinois electorate on Tuesday was white, and Sanders won 58 percent of that vote, according to exit polls. Clinton built her edge, however, because she secured 70 percent of the African-American vote — even though the black vote was about 27 percent.

Gender played a role: More women, 54 percent, than men, 46 percent, voted in Illinois, the exit poll showed. Sanders won 54 percent of that smaller male vote compared to Clinton securing 55 percent of the female vote.

Married folks favored Clinton in Illinois; single voters were for Sanders.

Sanders won 88 percent of the 17- to 24-year-old vote in Illinois. He captured the support of 82 percent of the youths ages 25 to 29. The problem for Sanders — and the gift to Clinton — is that in Illinois, more older people vote, and she won the major support of Illinoisans over 30.

The Illinois exit poll showed Clinton was slightly favored by those who did not go to college, while Sanders was backed by college graduates.

Though Sanders’ campaign centerpiece is his call for a revolution against Wall Street and big-money interests, the Illinois exit poll showed that Clinton was backed by 60 percent of those who made less than $30,000.

Clinton had the support of the Illinois Democratic political establishment, and 77 percent of those who called themselves Democrats supported Clinton.

Sanders was supported by 71 percent of those who called themselves independent. And those who said they were liberals were also for Sanders in Illinois.

Overall, the Illinois exit poll found 24 percent of Democrats made up their mind in the last week.

So Sanders’ attacks on Clinton via Emanuel may have just come too late.