By Ginger Gibson
(Reuters) - Three states were holding Democratic presidential nominating contests on Saturday with Hillary Clinton trying to expand her lead in the race to secure the party's nomination.
Bernie Sanders was hopeful he could pick up wins in Washington, Alaska and Hawaii. While few public polls are available, all three contests are being conducted as caucuses, a format that favors the Vermont U.S. senator.
As he struggles to remain competitive, Western states have become must-wins for Sanders, who lost by large margins in earlier contests in the South.
Sanders and Clinton, the former secretary of state, are competing to represent the Democratic Party in the Nov. 8 presidential election.
No states are holding Republican nominating contests on Saturday, a race in which Donald Trump holds a lead over the remaining rivals U.S. Senator Ted Cruz of Texas and Ohio Governor John Kasich.
On Saturday, the New York Times published a lengthy foreign policy-focused interview with Trump. The New York billionaire told the newspaper he might stop oil purchases from Saudi Arabia unless they provide troops to fight the Islamic State.
Trump also told the Times he was willing to rethink traditional U.S. alliances should he become president.
Clinton holds a sizable lead in the delegates race against Sanders, with 1,223 compared to 920. Despite needing to win about two-thirds of the remaining delegates, Sanders has vowed to stay in the race until the Democratic nominating convention in Philadelphia in July.
The latest Reuters/Ipsos poll shows Clinton with 47 percent of the Democratic vote and Sanders with 46 percent. The poll, which was conducted last week, surveyed 1,249 likely voters and had a credibility interval of 3.2 percentage points.
Washington, with 118 delegates, has the most up for grabs Saturday. Clinton and Sanders also face off in Alaska, where 20 delegates are at stake, and in Hawaii, which has 34 delegates.
Sanders has been campaigning aggressively in Washington, where the demographics and format favor him. He has done better in heavily white states and those that hold caucuses.
Clinton has continued to campaign despite her delegate lead.
“We are on the path to the nomination and I want Washington to be part of how we get there,” Clinton told a crowd in Everett, Washington, on Tuesday. “... It’s important to show up at this caucus on Saturday."
(Additional reporting by Alana Wise and Amanda Becker; Editing by Cynthia Osterman and Bill Trott)
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