ARLINGTON, Virginia — Minutes after polls closed across Virginia and it appeared that Joe Biden had won the commonwealth, as well as North Carolina and Alabama, Bernie Sanders’ supporters were still casually trickling into a Super Tuesday election-return watch party just outside of Washington, D.C.
Among volunteers who'd been out canvassing for Sanders, the mood was dour, in part because many had heard Hillary Clinton ripping on Sanders in an NPR interview on the way over. But their message was clear: Just wait for Texas and California.
Biden may be headed for a Southern sweep on Super Tuesday, but more than half the delegates await in those two mega-states where Sanders has robust organizations and strong Latinx support.
“I need a drink,” 60-year-old nurse Fran Sanderson sighed as she signed in to this watch party after spending more than six hours canvassing for Sanders.
Before Sanderson could grab that much-needed drink, she unloaded on the Democratic National Committee, which she says is once again working to derail Sanders’ meteoric rise in national politics. “I’m not a conspiracy theorist — I’m not — but it’s a little fishy-smelling,” Sanderson said of the party establishment’s coalescing around Biden and not Sanders.
As we chatted, the crowd soon ballooned from a mere eight to more than 40 attendees, with more supporters still trickling in every 15 or so minutes. That’s because attendees are banking on a late night, with all eyes on Texas and California, where they plan to crush Biden, fearing he's too old to take on the president.
“Trump’s going to eat him up in a debate. He's an animal,” said Sanderson, who is also planning to canvass for Sanders in nearby Washington and in Pennsylvania.
The crowd roared as early returns from Texas flashed on the TV screen.
“It won’t be until like midnight or so where we’ll start hearing some good news, and it will balance some things out,” said Andrew Parr, a 58-year-old Northern Virginia (or NOVA) volunteer for Bernie, which is hosting this event. “And things won’t look so bleak.”
It’s not just Sanders’ faithful volunteers feeling the Bern this evening. One of his top surrogates in Congress is also not on the edge of his seat. Actually, he may be — just not for the reason Biden’s team is.
“I’m confident he’ll have a lead coming out of Super Tuesday — a fairly significant lead,” Rep. Ro Khanna (D-Calif.) told VICE News at the Capitol Tuesday afternoon. “I think the question is, just what's the size of it going to be?”
Like many Sanders volunteers, Khanna also questions why the party’s establishment is once again moving away from Sanders, even as he’s exciting millions from coast to coast.
“I think what you're seeing is Sanders has a popular message in terms of policies and a lot of the activism and energy of the younger generation,” Khanna said. “Instead of attacking him and shunning him, I think what the party really needs to figure out is, how do we harness this energy and adopt and embrace the ideas that he’s talking about.”
Cover: Campaign buttons for sale during a Super Tuesday night rally with Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) at the Champlain Valley Expo March 03, 2020 in Essex Junction, Vermont. 1,357 Democratic delegates are at stake as voters cast their ballots in 14 states and American Samoa on what is known as Super Tuesday. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)