Record-breaking turnout fueled a dramatic day of voting and an emphatic victory for Bernie Sanders over Hillary Clinton in the Maine caucus on Sunday, topping a weekend where the senator bested the former secretary of state in three out of four contests nationwide.
With more than 90 percent of precincts reporting, the Maine Democratic Party results showed that Sanders claimed 64 percent of the vote to Clinton's 36 percent. On Saturday, as Common Dreams reported, Sanders also won in Nebraska and Kansas. In the four total contests over the weekend, Clinton's sole victory came in Louisiana.
In a statement late on Sunday, Sanders thanked voters in Maine where he said the large margin of victory shows he can be competitive nationwide. "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," declared Sanders. "This weekend alone we won in Maine, Kansas and Nebraska. The pundits might not like it but the people are making history. We now have the momentum to go all the way to the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia."
According to local reporting from across the state, it appears—in addition to the obvious support for his political message—that record turnout was the driving factor for Sanders' win. In a tweet, the Maine Democratic Party said the number of voters on Sunday was unprecedented in state history. "More Maine Democrats caucused today than ever before," said the message.
And as the Bangor Daily News reports:
Volunteers from many of the roughly 500 caucus sites in Maine reported heavy turnouts, in some areas rivaling the flood of Democrats who turned out in 2008, Barack Obama’s first shot at the presidency.
The line of people waiting to get into the Portland caucus at Deering High School stretched more than half a mile. Some people reported waiting more than three hours before being able to register and vote in that caucus.
In Brunswick and several other locations, most of Sunday’s planned program of speeches by local candidates and consideration of party bylaws was canceled because of the heavy turnout. In Brunswick, there were still hundreds of people waiting in line as the scheduled caucus starting time came and went.
“It’s amazing,” said Brunswick caucus chairwoman Trish Reilly. “There were people already waiting here at noon,” two hours before the caucus was scheduled to start.
As this video posted to the newspaper's website shows, the line at this caucus site in the city of Portland stretched multiple blocks:
Following the weekend contests and ahead of the Democratic primary in Michigan on Tuesday, Clinton continues to hold a sizable, though certainly surmountable, lead in terms of pledged delegates. According to the latest breakdown by Real Clear Politics, Clinton currently has won 658 pledged delegates compared to Sanders who has won 471. In terms of superdelegates — elected lawmakers as well as former and current party officials who can support the candidate of their choice —Clinton currently enjoys the declared support of 458 while Sanders has the public support of just 22.
However, none of the approximately 712 superdelegates are bound to their declared choice until the national convention this summer.
As independent journalist Kevin Gosztola points out in an essay on posted Sunday, the U.S. media has been doing a great disservice by frequently mis-reporting the total delegate count. "Any media outlet, which reports 'super delegates' as part of one lump sum," explained Gosztola, "is doing the Clinton campaign a huge favor, whether that outlet intends to do so or not."
It takes a total of 2,383 delegates (out of a total of 4,763) to win the Democratic nomination.
*Update: This post was updated to better describe the current delegate breakdown, specifically the difference between pledged delegates and superdelegates.