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Bernie Sanders wins the Northern Mariana Islands caucuses

It’s a small, but helpful, win for the senator.

Bernie Sanders smiles as he passes a crowd waving Bernie signs.
Sen. Bernie Sanders arrives for a campaign rally in Grand Rapids, Michigan on March 8, 2020.
Scott Olson/Getty Images

Sen. Bernie Sanders just got a small bit of much-needed good news: He won the Northern Mariana Islands caucuses, beating out former Vice President Joe Biden.

The territory — a small string of islands in the Pacific — has just six delegates to the Democratic National Convention in July on offer.

As the Democratic primary progresses and Biden widens his delegate lead, such a small handful of delegates likely won’t make much of an impact — but with just two candidates still in the hunt, every delegate helps.

As a territory, the Northern Mariana Islands gets a voice in the primary, but not in the general election in November. However, unlike in the US territory of American Samoa — which voted earlier this month on Super Tuesday — anyone born on the island is automatically an American citizen and could theoretically vote if they move to a US state and register to vote there.

The islands also get a representative in Congress — albeit a nonvoting one, like the nation’s capital. The territory is currently represented by Democrat Gregorio Kilili Camacho Sablan.

Sanders’s victory is something of an upset. There hadn’t been any polling to speak of in the territory leading up to the primary, though FiveThirtyEight projected a Biden win in the territory even prior to his March 10 primary victories in Michigan and elsewhere. Plus, in 2016, Clinton won the territory over Sanders.

This time around, however, the Northern Mariana Islands’ tiny electorate — only 167 voters in 2016 — favored the Vermont senator.

It’s a small win for the senator as he heads into another major round of primaries on Tuesday, March 17, already on the back foot after his delegate losses to Biden. Next up, he’ll take the stage for an 11th primary debate in Arizona — and when he does, he’ll have the Northern Mariana Islands in his column.

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