Bernie Sanders recorded a resounding victory in New Hampshire's Democratic primary Tuesday. He crushed his rival, Hillary Clinton, with no less than 60 percent of the vote. If Sanders hopes not only to win the election but to achieve his ambitious progressive agenda, though, that might not be enough.
To succeed, Sanders might have to drive Americans who don't normally participate to the polls. Unfortunately for him, groups who usually do not vote did not turn out in unusually large numbers in New Hampshire, according to exit polling data.
Sanders has called for a national single payer in health insurance, a plan he calls Medicare-for-all. He also hopes to impose a tax on financial transactions on Wall Street and to make going to college free for students at state schools. Republicans in Congress -- along with at least a few Democrats -- are not likely to support these proposals.
As president, the most likely way Sanders could achieve his goals is if voters give Democrats a large majority in Congress. Asked if his agenda was unrealistic during Thursday's debate at the University of New Hampshire, Sanders reiterated his promise of a "revolution."
"What we have got to do is wage a political revolution where millions of people who have given up on the political process stand up and fight back, demand that the government represent us and not just a handful of campaign contributors," he said.
On at least one point -- that many people who might support his policies have become disengaged from the political process -- the senator from Vermont is correct.
For example, one study found that among those who do not vote, a narrow majority believe that the government should provide health care. Those who don't vote tend to be younger and less educated, according to the Pew Research Center. More than half of those who sat out the election in 2012 had no more than a high-school diploma and less than $30,000 a year in household income.
Those are the people Sanders has to get to the polls if he hopes not only to win the Democratic nomination, but also to lead troops of the party's congressional candidates to victory in the general election, establishing the legislative majority his agenda requires.
At least in New Hampshire, though, younger, poorer and less educated people did not turn out in disproportionate numbers for the Democratic primaries, according to exit polling data gathered on behalf of major television networks and the Associated Press in 2008 and on Tuesday.
Nineteen percent of Democratic primary voters -- which, as it happens, can include independents under New Hampshire's rules -- in New Hampshire were less than 30 years old, just one percentage point more than in the state's primary in 2008. Thirty-one percent had less than $50,000 a year in income, compared to 32 percent in 2008. And the share of primary voters without a college degree apparently declined from 46 percent in 2008 to 40 percent on Tuesday.
As for Sanders, he credited his victory to turnout. "Because of a huge voter turnout -- and I say huge -- we won," he said in his speech declaring victory, dropping the "h" in "huge." "We harnessed the energy, and the excitement that the Democratic party will need to succeed in November."
In fact, Sanders won by persuading many habitual Democratic primary voters to support him. With 95 percent of precincts reporting their results as of Wednesday morning, just 241,000 ballots had been cast in the Democratic primary, fewer than the 268,000 projected by New Hampshire Secretary of State William Gardner last week. Nearly 289,000 voters cast ballots in the state's Democratic primary in 2008.
To be sure, the general election is still seven months away. Ordinary Americans might be paying little attention to the campaign at this point, and if Sanders wins the nomination, he'll have the help of the Democratic Party apparatus in registering new voters. The political revolution hasn't started, though, at least not yet.
On the other hand, that Sanders won even with fewer ballots might be the most impressive thing about his unlikely victory. In New Hampshire, regular voters are taking Sanders seriously, which could be worrisome for Clinton's supporters.