THE PUNDITS have all but written him off, seeing him swamped by a tropical tsunami of mostly black votes across the Deep South. The party bigwigs - "superdelegates," they call them - have made up their mind, with front-runner Hillary Clinton getting their support by a 20-1 margin. The TV ratings for the televised debates have shrunk.
It seems that the only folks who don't want the Democratic presidential primary race to be over are the voters.
A surge of blue-collar voters in Michigan - a state that's been battered by bad trade deals and massive job losses - gave Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders a stunning upset victory in Tuesday's Michigan primary, throwing a lifeline to the campaign of a "democratic socialist" who's campaigned against inequality and big money in politics.
Call it the Motor City Miracle, Momentum in Motown, a huge upset on the same soil where the 1968 Detroit Tigers pulled off a stunning comeback to beat the vaunted St. Louis Cardinals and where Motown Records' Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell once sang that there's "Ain't No Mountain High Enough."
It's certainly still a high mountain for Sanders, who still lags far behind the former secretary of State in the all-important delegate count thanks to huge landslides fueled by black voters in the Deep South and because of the more than 400 "superdelegates" backing Clinton. What's more, the Democrats' system of awarding delegates proportionally makes it difficult for a candidate to catch up once he or she falls behind. For one shining moment for Sanders, though, none of that mattered.
"We repudiated the pundits who said that Bernie Sanders is not going anywhere," Sanders said in a brief statement Tuesday night from Miami, where he is campaigning. He added: "[Voters] are tired of a rigged economy in which the people in Michigan, the people in Illinois, the people in Ohio are working longer hours for low wages, worried to death about the future of their kids."
In the short term, Tuesday night's shocking win gives Sanders a huge - excuse me, yuuuge - boost going into two more big Rust Belt primaries next Tuesday in the vote-rich states of Ohio and Illinois, not to mention the other industrial states, including Pennsylvania, New Jersey and New York, that vote later this spring.
In the long run, Sanders' comeback - almost every poll in the state showed him trailing by double digits - and arguably the victory for Donald Trump on the Republican side shows that middle-class voters have lost faith in free trade deals from Mexico to the Pacific.
"She's not running the same kind of numbers in the African-American community that she is in some of these southern states," David Axelrod, who was President Obama's chief political strategist, said of Clinton on CNN. "There's a reason for African-Americans [in Michigan] to be less embracing of the status quo, perhaps."
Indeed, Sanders campaigned hard against housing foreclosures in the black community - which hit Detroit and surrounding communities especially hard - and his pitch against free trade seemed to play better up north, where many African-American ex-factory workers have seen their jobs outsourced. Tuesday night's exit polls suggested that Sanders was getting about 35 percent of the black vote in Michigan, which might not sound great, but is more than double the rate of minority support he's received in Deep South primaries. And among younger black voters who mostly weren't casting ballots when Bill Clinton was in the White House, there was a 50-50 split.
"The African-American community lost more than half of its wealth in the housing crisis," political commentator Van Jones, who worked for a time in Obama administration, noted on CNN - suggesting that Sanders might have found a better pitch to working-class blacks, on foreclosures, than he did with his frequent blasts against greed on Wall Street.
The Vermont senator ran strongest in some of the communities such as Macomb County outside Detroit that were once a bastion of the so-called "Reagan Democrats" who support lunch-bucket economic policies but are socially conservative and often voted Republican in the 1970s, '80s and '90s.
Clinton, for her part, focused much of her campaign in Michigan on spotlighting the lead contamination of public tap water in the hard-hit city of Flint and on vote-rich neighborhoods in Detroit - but ignored much of the rest of a large and diverse Midwestern state.
Sanders pulled landslide numbers in the large liberal college city of Ann Arbor, where Clinton never campaigned. And most experts say Clinton, who'd run a largely mistake-free campaign since her defeat in New Hampshire, made a big goof by misrepresenting Sanders' 2008 votes on bailing out the auto industry, a huge issue in the Wolverine State.
So what briefly looked like a lost cause for the Sanders campaign now remains one worth fighting for. He has plenty of money to battle on - thanks to an astonishing base of 1.3 million mostly small donors - and the large megaphone he's long sought in a 44-year career in elective politics. His longshot White House ambitions did get a reality check with a shellacking in the other primary Tuesday night in Mississippi.
Still, Clinton's weak showing among blue-collar voters will cause huge recriminations at her campaign headquarters in Brooklyn - and renew questions about whether she'd be a weak candidate in the November general election. Indeed, Clinton gave a brief statement about Tuesday's results but the cable TV networks didn't carry any of it. The networks were instead mesmerized by a 40-minute Trump monologue from one of his Florida resorts.