The Vermont senator's candidacy exceeded expectations by virtually every measure
Here are nine high-flying moments Sanders and his loyal "Berniecrats" will be sure to remember
Bernie Sanders’ remarkable run ended a few months earlier than his millions of supporters dreamed – he formally endorsed Hillary Clinton Tuesday in New Hampshire with her by his side – but his fiery call for a “political revolution” and the memory of his historic campaign will echo on much longer.
The Vermont senator’s candidacy exceeded expectations by virtually every measure – raising more money, winning more delegates and generating more excitement than even his most optimistic allies initially believed possible.
Here are nine high-flying moments Sanders and his loyal “Berniecrats” will be sure to remember as they take their cause to the Democratic convention in Philadelphia, where Clinton will be nominated.
1. Miracle in Michigan
No one saw it coming – not even the Sanders campaign, which held its election night rally on March 8 before the results were confirmed.
Trailing by double-digits in late tracking polls, the upset victory breathed new life into a contest Clinton was hoping to wrap up early.
“What tonight means is that the Bernie Sanders campaign, the people’s revolution that we’re talking about, the political revolution that we’re talking about, is strong in every part of the country,” Sanders told reporters afterward. “And, frankly, we believe our strongest areas are yet to happen.”
For Clinton, who already had her eye on the general election, it was a wakeup call.
A day before the vote, she told supporters that “the sooner I could become your nominee, the more I could begin to turn my attention to the Republicans.”
But the Michigan result ratified Sanders’ appeal to blue-collar Democrats and gave the candidate and his staff a reason to dream big.
2. Spring awakening
The high hopes lasted about a week. Clinton swept all five March 15 contests, again pushing Sanders to the brink.
But again, the Vermont senator’s campaign rallied. He went on to win six of the next seven contests, including a 13-point victory in Wisconsin on April 5.
The Badger State had been kind to Sanders since the early days of the campaign and his arrival felt like a sort of homecoming. In Janesville, he told supporters he considered the state’s embattled labor unions “family” and promised to use his presidency to “rebuild the trade union movement in this country.”
3. Meet ‘Birdie Sanders’
It was the bird landing that launched a million memes. At a rally in Portland, Oregon – because, of course – the friendly feathered creature decided to get an up-close look at the candidate. Sanders paused his speech, first in shock and then delight, before offering a broad grin and welcome to the uninvited guest.
“I think there may be some symbolism here,” Sanders said. “I know it doesn’t look like it, but that bird is really a dove asking us for world peace.”
The rest is illustrated history, as his supporters celebrated the serendipitous visit on signs, T-shirts and across the Internet. By night’s end, “Birdie Sanders” was a campaign legend.
4. Flexing fundraising might, $27 at a time
On Sept. 30, 2015, months before the first votes were cast, the Sanders campaign announced that it had received its 1 millionth online donation.
The Vermont senator’s small-dollar fundraising machine – fueled by those $27 average contributions Sanders so frequently touted – kept the upstart campaign burning long and strong, all the way to the final contest, in Washington, D.C., on June 14.
He pulled in nearly $3 million after a narrow loss in Iowa and by April had equaled Clinton’s haul. The courtship of Sanders’ dedicated donor base will be a priority for the Clinton as the general election campaign hurtles toward November.