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
Former Mayor Pete Buttigieg: 132,341
Sen. Amy Klobuchar: 86,868
Sen. Elizabeth Warren: 73,434
Joe Biden: 66,892
233,701—Votes Hillary Clinton received in Pinellas alone in the 2016 general election.
221,477—Florida Democrats who already have voted by mail in the March 17 primary election.
345,851—Democrats registered to vote in Hillsborough County.
207,043—How many votes the Libertarian candidate Gary Johnson got in Florida in the 2016 presidential election.
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.