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Bernie Sanders wins the Democrats Abroad primary

The Vermont senator claims a small victory as his campaign runs out of road.

Democratic Presidential Candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders Speaks To The Media In Burlington, Vermont
Sen. Bernie Sanders in Burlington, Vermont, on March 11, 2020.
Scott Eisen/Getty Images

Sen. Bernie Sanders — whose presidential bid has fallen on hard times since a disappointing Super Tuesday earlier this month — rekindled some of his old momentum on Monday with a win over former Vice President Joe Biden in the Democrats Abroad primary.

The contest had a bit of an unusual format: The primary was conducted from March 3 through March 10, and voting took place at various locations around the world. Results, however, weren’t reported until Monday due to a high volume of mail-in ballots.

According to the Democrats Abroad group — which identifies itself as “the official Democratic Party arm” for Americans living overseas — there were voting centers in more than 40 countries, from Finland to New Zealand. The primary is a unique feature of the Democratic Party — there is no Republican equivalent. And turnout tends to be impressive: In 2016, nearly 35,000 Democratic voters living abroad voted in the primary.

The contest has just a handful of delegates on offer — only 13 (1,991 are required to clinch the Democratic nomination). Per our friends at Decision Desk and the UVA Center for Politics, Sanders will take home nine of them, while Biden notched four. Still, in a period with a substantial drought of primary news and with many races being rescheduled on account of the coronavirus pandemic, it’s a small bit of good news for the Vermont senator.

There hadn’t been any polling to speak of for the primary — it would be almost impossible, not to mention utterly impractical, to accurately poll the Democratic diaspora across the globe — but in 2016, Sanders won out over eventual nominee Hillary Clinton by a margin of 38 points.

This year, despite a FiveThirtyEight forecast indicating that Biden would win the most delegates, Sanders pulled off a repeat performance.

There won’t be another primary until next month — Puerto Rico was supposed to hold its contest on March 29, but on Saturday became the eighth state or territory to postpone its election amid the coronavirus pandemic.

After a string of hard losses last week, Sanders has said that he plans to “assess his campaign,” as his path to the nomination has all but disappeared. Ultimately, his win in the Democrats Abroad primary may prove to be too little, too late.

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