Bernie Sanders took the stage in his home state of Vermont a mere half-hour after Super Tuesday polls began to close on the East Coast. That does not signal resounding confidence in what the night’s results have in store for him.
The crowd Sanders faced in Essex Junction was, of course, as friendly as it could be — and pumped up that the state had already been called for him. The candidate delivered some of his standard stump speech, promising to bring billionaires to heel, reform the campaign finance system, and close the wealth gap. He also appeared to build in a hedge, telling his supporters, “This campaign is not just about electing a president, it is about transforming America.” If Sanders is forced from the race, expect a version of that in his concession — a way to claim victory in defeat, legitimately, for having changed the terms of the debate with his surprisingly robust candidacy.
But Sanders is hardly conceding anything yet. He also reminded his audience that the race is now a slog for delegates, and under the proportional system for rewarding them in the contests, he expects, “by the end of tonight, we are going to win many hundreds of delegates.” A total of 865 are in play, out of 2,383 needed to secure the party’s nomination.
Before Sanders started speaking, media organizations were already projecting Hillary Clinton to win in Georgia and Virginia — a sign that she’ll carry those states by hefty margins. Sanders is looking to score potential upsets in Colorado, Oklahoma, Minnesota, and potentially Massachusetts. But his team has also worked to keep expectations in check.