Bernie Sanders' supporters had hoped Super Tuesday would put their candidate in an unassailable position to secure the Democratic presidential nomination. But a string of projected victories for rival Joe Biden meant they left a rally in Vermont with little certainty.
Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., with his wife Jane O'Meara Sanders, waves his hand during a rally in El Paso, Texas, Saturday, Feb. 22, 2020. (Photo: AP)
About 3,000 fans of the self-declared democratic socialist endured a night of contrasting emotions at an exhibition hall near Sanders' home of Burlington: Worried looks when states seemed to go Biden's way, and shouts of joy when they backed Sanders.
The night started well when CNN, on a giant screen, announced that Sanders had won Vermont.
It was a symbolic victory because the Brooklyn native settled there in the 1960s and went on to become mayor of Burlington, but Vermont is one of the least populated and least important of the 14 states that voted in Tuesday's Democratic primaries.
The win in Vermont was expected.
But the projected results that followed were far less encouraging: victory for Biden, the ex-vice president, in Virginia and four more southern states including North Carolina.
Later came a forecast win for Biden in Massachusetts, a major blow for Elizabeth Warren who is a senator there, but also a big disappointment for fellow progressive Sanders. He had hoped to win after organizing two big rallies there in recent days.
Results looked more promising elsewhere for Sanders, who had projected wins in Colorado and Utah. Exit polls also pointed to a victory in the most delegate-rich state of all, California.
The second-biggest prize, Texas, was a close battle early Wednesday at about 0600 GMT.
"It's a mixed bag," said 31-year-old Zac Johnson, who made the six-hour drive with his fiancee from New York to show support for his political hero.
"But if he wins Texas and California, the two big trophies of the night, once more candidates drop out, and once he gets on stage with Biden, he is a much better debater and his policies are clear," Johnson added.
Other Sanders supporters were more overtly disappointed.
Wendy Simbers, 58, said she'd love to see Sanders in the White House but didn't know whether it could happen.
"But his ideas are out there now, no matter what happens," she told AFP, consoling herself with a disappointing night.
Taking to the stage just after 10:00 pm (0300 GMT), Sanders told cheering fans he had "absolute confidence" he would win the Democratic nomination.
Standing next to his wife Jane O'Meara Sanders, the 78-year-old said he was going to remove "the most dangerous president in the history of this country" from the White House.
"We are going to win because the people understand it is our campaign, our movement, which is best positioned to defeat Trump," said Sanders, his supporters cheering and clapping every sentence.
He admitted he didn't know how he would fare in the day's two biggest states Texas and California, where polls were due to close at 0400 GMT.
"He's honest," said Taylor DeGorter, 21, a student from New York.
"I prefer him to be honest rather than lying. That's what he is known for."