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  1. Opinion

Keep calm. The race to become the Democratic nominee for president is far from over. | Editorial

Florida Democrats should keep watching and waiting until some numbers add up.
In this Feb. 19, 2020, file photo, from left, Democratic presidential candidates, former New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg, Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., former Vice President Joe Biden, former South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg, Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., participate in a Democratic presidential primary debate Wednesday, in Las Vegas, hosted by NBC News and MSNBC. [JOHN LOCHER | AP]

As the Democratic presidential candidates prepare to debate Tuesday night in Charleston, S.C., voters in Florida should pay heed to the numbers and remember what they do and don’t mean. Only three small states have voted so far, and the total votes cast in Iowa, New Hampshire and Nevada come nowhere near the combined population of just Tampa and St. Petersburg. Those who either welcome or fear that Sen. Bernie Sanders, a self-described democratic socialist, could become the Democratic nominee should keep the tiny scale of those numbers in mind. The best thing for Florida Democrats to do right now is keep paying attention and wait to vote until the picture becomes clearer—and the numbers become big enough to be meaningful. The South Carolina primary is Saturday, and Democrats in 14 states, including California and Texas, vote on March 3.

Take a deep breath. Sanders’ vote totals so far are so small that they are eclipsed by the number of votes Hillary Clinton got just in Pinellas County in the 2016 general election, and she lost the county—and the election—to President Donald Trump. The other four top vote-getters—former South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg, Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar, Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren and former Vice President Joe Biden—have only 15,000 more votes combined than the number of registered Democrats in Hillsborough County. And former New York Mayor Mike Bloomberg has not been on the ballot anywhere yet.

Here are the combined total votes each candidate received in the Iowa caucus, the New Hampshire primary and the Nevada caucus.

Sen. Bernie Sanders: 160,950

Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., speaks during a campaign event at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, Tuesday, Feb. 18, 2020. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky) [PATRICK SEMANSKY | AP]

Former Mayor Pete Buttigieg: 132,341

Democratic presidential candidate South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg speaks during a fundraiser for the Nevada Democratic Party, Sunday, Nov. 17, 2019, in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/John Locher) [JOHN LOCHER | AP]

Sen. Amy Klobuchar: 86,868

Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Amy Klobuchar speaks Feb. 21, 2020, at a Boys & Girls Club gymnasium in Reno, Nevada. [SCOTT SONNER | AP]

Sen. Elizabeth Warren: 73,434

Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., speaks at the office of SEIU Nevada Local 1107 in Las Vegas, Monday, Feb. 17, 2020. [PATRICK SEMANSKY | AP]

Joe Biden: 66,892

In this Feb. 19, 2020, file photo, Democratic presidential candidate, former Vice President Joe Biden calls out as he walks on a picket line with members of the Culinary Workers Union Local 226 outside the Palms Casino in Las Vegas. [PATRICK SEMANSKY | AP]

233,701—Votes Hillary Clinton received in Pinellas alone in the 2016 general election.

Steve Zebos taught Hillary Clinton when she was a freshman at Maine Township High School East in Park Ridge, Ill. The 86-year-old Pinellas Park resident attended her rally in St. Petersburg in 2016 and shook hands with his former pupil.

221,477—Florida Democrats who already have voted by mail in the March 17 primary election.

Special Presidential Preference Primary Election ballots are pictured at the Elections Service Center prior to the Hillsborough County Supervisor of Elections having 12 pallets of general ballots loaded onto a truck and delivered to the post office in Tampa. [MARTHA ASENCIO RHINE | Times]

345,851—Democrats registered to vote in Hillsborough County.

Mary Bailey, left, guides her husband, Rudolph, into the West Tampa Library on Union Street to cast their primary election ballots as early voting gets under way in 2016 in Hillsborough.

207,043—How many votes the Libertarian candidate Gary Johnson got in Florida in the 2016 presidential election.

Gary Johnson gives his acceptance speech after he won the Libertarian Party's 2016 presidential nomination during the party's national convention in Orlando.

The numbers don’t really become big enough to begin to clear the landscape until Super Tuesday, March 3, when the outcomes will award more than a third of all delegates for the Democratic National Convention. That day is also the first time Bloomberg will appear on the ballot.

As Florida Democrats watch and wait, after Saturday’s South Carolina primary they would do well to remember Winston Churchill’s words after the first British land victory in 1942 in World War II: “Now, this is not the end. It is not even the beginning of the end. But it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning.”

Editorials are the institutional voice of the Tampa Bay Times. The members of the Editorial Board are Times Chairman and CEO Paul Tash, Editor of Editorials Tim Nickens, and editorial writers Elizabeth Djinis, John Hill and Jim Verhulst. Follow @TBTimes_Opinion on Twitter for more opinion news.