(Newsweek) – Bernie Sanders made political history Saturday and solidified his front-runner status atop the Democratic presidential candidates with his Nevada caucuses victory, becoming the first candidate from either party to win the popular vote in all three early states in a competitive primary.
The Vermont senator garnered primary popular vote victories in Iowa on February 3, New Hampshire on February 11 and Nevada on Saturday — a first among any Republican or Democrat in history in a competitive primary. Sanders dominated the other Democratic presidential candidates, with 46 percent of Nevada caucus voters backing the senator versus only 19 percent in support of former Vice President Joe Biden and 15 percent supporting former South Bend, Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg. Al Gore also won his first three Democratic primary contests, Iowa, New Hampshire and Delaware, but only faced one opponent, New Jersey Senator Bill Bradley.
Although Sanders did not win more delegates than Buttigieg in the bungled Iowa caucuses, analysts say his victory in the diverse state of Nevada bodes well for him as front-runner heading into Super Tuesday.
“In Nevada, we have just put together a multigenerational, multiracial coalition, which is going to not only win in Nevada–it’s going to sweep this country,” Sanders said at a rally in San Antonio, Texas, as news of his caucus victory came to light. “No campaign has a grassroots movement like we do, which is another reason why we’re going to win this election.”
The candidate’s history-making popular vote victories in each of the first three early voting states has awarded him 31 delegates. Buttigieg, who matched Sanders in the Iowa delegate count, remains in second with 22 and Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren is in third with eight. Candidates need 1,991 delegates in order to help secure the nomination at the Democratic National Convention in July.
Along with the senator himself, Sanders’ supporters and campaign volunteers reveled in his third straight popular vote victory Sunday. The next primary will be held in South Carolina on February 29.
“Yet somehow every time #NotMeUs are told we can’t do something we do it. We just took him to break historical records by being the first candidate from either party to win the popular vote of the first three states. Ever It will take groundswell to challenge Senate. This is that,” tweeted Rafael Shimunov, a Sanders delegate based in New York.
“Bernard Sanders is the only candidate in history (in a competitive primary) to win the popular vote in the first 3 states,” remarked the People for Bernie Sanders Twitter account Saturday evening, after the announcement of his victory.
in 2016, Sanders lost both Nevada and Iowa to then-Democratic primary opponent Hillary Clinton, but he held on to his neighboring state of New Hampshire.