clock menu more-arrow no yes

Bernie Sanders just won Maine by a 29-point margin

Bernie Sanders after winning New Hampshire.
Bernie Sanders after winning New Hampshire.
Win McNamee/Getty Images

Bernie Sanders won the Maine caucus by a big margin on Sunday night, giving him three victories out of the four contests held this weekend.

That seems impressive, but the number of delegates awarded make it sound a little less so. Though Sanders also took Nebraska and Kansas on Saturday, he and Hillary Clinton are likely to get roughly the same number of delegates from the four contests because of her overwhelming win in Louisiana.

Alone, tonight's victory will give Sanders the majority of Maine's 25 delegates. That's pretty tiny when you consider that it takes 2,382 delegates to secure the Democratic nomination.

But his good run isn't meaningless, either. Sanders won Maine by a massive 64-35 margin, according to the initial projections, a landslide that mirrors his similar margin of victory in neighboring New Hampshire in February.

And the Maine caucus may prove meaningful in another sense: by giving Sanders a boost of momentum — in the media, with supporters, and in the minds of voters — that could improve his chances in the bigger contests that are on the way.

Sanders's big test is coming in Michigan on Tuesday

The next major upcoming primary is on Tuesday in Michigan, where 130 delegates are at stake. Sanders's campaign has spoken openly about the importance of winning the state — also the site of tonight's Democratic debate — to maintain a viable path to the nomination.

The Michigan primary isn't just important because of how many delegates are on the table. It's also important to watch because of its similarities to a handful of delegate-rich states — Ohio, Illinois, Wisconsin — that could determine the shape of the race.

Michigan doesn't really look like any state that's voted so far. It has a substantial African-American population — about 15 percent of the state — but it also has a large white working class, which has supported Sanders across much of the country.

This weekend's results don't give us much more evidence about how Sanders will do in the crucial battleground. Clinton continued to do well in Louisiana largely because of her support among black voters, and Sanders continues to do well among overwhelmingly white states and states in the Northeast.

Clinton is still in a formidable position, with a current lead of about 200 delegates, according to Vox's delegate tracker. One recent poll put her over Sanders by 25 points in Michigan, a result that would be devastating for his campaign.

Still, for now Sanders's team is seizing on the results they do have to show that — regardless of the delegate count — he has a broad base of support.

"I thank the people of Maine for their strong support. With another double-digit victory, we have now won by wide margins in states from New England to the Rocky Mountains and from the Midwest to the Great Plains," Sanders said in a statement Sunday night. "The pundits might not like it but the people are making history."