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Bernie Sanders wins Vermont Democratic primary

Scott Olson/Getty

Bernie Sanders has won Vermont's Democratic primary, according to projections from multiple media outlets.

Sanders was always expected to win Vermont. It is, after all, his home state. The state's heavily white, liberal Democratic electorate is very similar to the states where Sanders has been strongest: Iowa and New Hampshire. So it makes sense that Vermont was one of the states the Sanders campaign focused its energies on in the days leading up to Super Tuesday.

What does this mean for the Democratic race?

Anyone can win their home state. The real measure of how important Vermont is to the broader Democratic primary battle is whether it makes it more likely or less likely that Bernie Sanders will be able to catch up to Hillary Clinton's support.

Because the primary calendar is spread out, it's totally plausible that Clinton could come out to an early lead as her stronger states vote early — then watch it evaporate as pro-Sanders states turned out to the polls later. (Or vice versa.)

One way to figure out if Clinton's lead is temporary, or if Sanders is running out of time to close the gap, is to start backwards. If Sanders and Clinton had exactly equal amounts of support among all Democratic primary voters in America, what would the race look like right now? What would have happened in Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada, and South Carolina, and what would happen in the Super Tuesday states tonight?

Nate Silver and the team at FiveThirtyEight have one way of estimating that. They use the demographics of each state to predict how much that state would "lean" toward Clinton or Sanders if the race were evenly tied nationally.

According to that model, if Sanders were tied with Clinton nationally, he'd be beating her by 83(!) points in Vermont. In other words, his victory there doesn't necessarily mean anything for his performance elsewhere.