Bernie Sanders Supporters Keep The Faith After Disappointing Super Tuesday 2 Results: 'He's Down, He's Not Out'

"It was all very optimistic three weeks ago."

That's how David Robin, like most supporters of Bernie Sanders, saw the Democratic primary for president after the Vermont senator picked up a trio of victories in Iowa, New Hampshire and Nevada in early February.

Then former Vice President Joe Biden upended the race with a big win in South Carolina, edging out his competitors by 40 percentage points. That victory carried him through Super Tuesday on March 3, where he won 10 of the 14 states in play.

Even after that, Robin—who's been a Sanders supporter since Occupy Wall Street in 2011 and is the co-founder of New York City for Bernie 2020—remained hopeful. After all, the senator was closer in the delegate count than he was in 2016. Four years ago, he was down by roughly 200 delegates after Super Tuesday. Heading into tonight's primaries, he was trailing Biden by fewer than 100 delegates.

But now, after Biden quickly notched three decisive victories in Mississippi, Michigan and Missouri in what some have dubbed "mini-Super Tuesday" or "Super Tuesday 2," the mood has shifted.

"It's not the results I would have looked for or hoped for," Robin said, admitting it's not a "great sign" but that "we need to keep fighting."

So what happened exactly? The senator's supporters, dozens of whom gathered at a bar in Brooklyn, New York to watch the results from six primaries come in live on Tuesday night, have a few different ideas.

Many of them point to the wave of moderate candidates who dropped out of the race. Pete Buttigieg, Amy Klobuchar, Tom Steyer and Mike Bloomberg all exited the race in the span of four days earlier this month. Three of those candidates—Buttigieg, Klobuchar and Bloomberg—immediately endorsed the former vice president. Bloomberg, the billionaire, is expected to throw his unlimited resources behind Biden in the coming months.

"You had so many moderates in the race and once they all dropped out they decided Biden was more their speed and that's who they're going with," said Daniel Oliva, a 28-year-old Sanders supporter. "It had an impact."

Michael Carter, a past Sanders volunteer and a current organizer for New York State Senator Julia Salazar (a self-described Democratic socialist), called the rest of the field's consolidation "precisely timed."

"We haven't been able to see Biden and Bernie in a one-on-one debate yet. I don't think that's a format Biden will be very strong in," Carter said. He called Biden's front runner status "inevitable" after the field shrunk dramatically.

Others blame the media for creating a narrative that they say counted Sanders out so early on. That's an argument the Sanders campaign has also made a few times over the course of the campaign. His team amped up their criticism of MSNBC in late February, arguing that they slighted or ignored his success in the early-voting states.

"The media tends to project Biden in this huge lead even though he's not in this huge lead," said Ayesha Wadhawan, a 26-year-old Sanders volunteer. "I'm hopeful he can catch up in delegates, it's not such a big margin to cover."

sanders gets endorsement from rev. jackson
Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) listens as Rev. Jesse Jackson addresses the crowd during Sander's campaign rally in Calder Plaza on March 08, 2020 in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Scott Olson/Getty

A particularly devastating loss for the Sanders campaign was Michigan, which was the biggest delegate haul of the night. The senator's unexpected upset victory there against Hillary Clinton in 2016 was a turning point for his campaign as it highlighted his appeal among working-class voters in the Midwest.

But on Tuesday night, not long after the polls closed, the Great Lakes State was called for the former vice president. Shortly after Michigan results came in, the bar's population of Sanders supporters dwindled.

"This sucks," could be heard from one supporter as he left the watch party early.

As of 11 p.m. on Tuesday night, results still hadn't come in from three of the six states to vote. North Dakota, Washington and Idaho still had no projected winner, though Sanders had a slight lead in Washington and North Dakota. But before the primary, FiveThirtyEight forecasters predicted Biden would sweep every state.

So after his back-to-back lackluster performances on Super Tuesday and on March 10, Sanders may find it challenging to justify continuing his campaign. Though fears of a contested convention, which experts say would throw the Democratic Party into chaos, have been mitigated since Sanders said he'd drop out if Biden has a plurality of delegates.

But it's clear that if the senator doesn't pick up more delegates from Biden in the Midwest, he'll likely find it difficult to find much support elsewhere. The former vice president is poised to pick up huge delegate advantages in the remaining Southern states, like Georgia and Louisiana, due to his strength among African American voters. Florida, another big electoral prize, is projected to be a Biden win.

Though many of Sanders' supporters say he should stay in the race. After all, there are still over 1,000 delegates up for grabs and soon more progressive states like New York will have the opportunity to weigh in.

"He's down, he's not out," Oliva said.

bernie sanders supporter cleveland ohio
A supporter holds a campaign sticker as he waits at the entrance after a campaign rally of Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) has been canceled at the Huntington Convention Center March 10, 2020 in Cleveland, Ohio. People are going to the polls Tuesday to vote in contests for the Democratic presidential nomination in six states, including Washington, Missouri, Mississippi, Idaho, North Dakota and Michigan, a crucial Midwestern state for both Sanders and his rival former Vice President Joe Biden. Alex Wong/Getty

But even if Sanders doesn't secure the Democratic nomination, many of his supporters are already starting to look at the bigger picture.

"Super Tuesday wasn't great and tonight doesn't look like it's going to be great, but the ideals are still there," said Bonnie Christilaw, a college student in New York who voted for Sanders in Michigan through an absentee ballot.

Those ideals include measures like universal health care, free college tuition, erasing student debt and the ambitious climate proposal, the Green New Deal.

"A lot of what Bernie is pushing for has become very popular and is becoming closer to actually happening because a lot of people are insisting on them now," Wadhawan said. "Overall, it's an optimistic trend."

"As he always says: 'It's not me, it's us,'" said Robin, one of the organizers of tonight's watch party. "We have all this energy from Bernie's movement that can be used for all of these local candidates around the country and for beating Donald Trump."

The graphic below, provided by Statista, illustrates the delegate count as of the March 11, 6 a.m. ET.

Democratic delegate count 2020 election statista
Democratic presidential candidates' delegate count as of March 11, 6 a.m. ET. Statista

This article was updated to include an infographic.