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‘I Was Surprised.’ Talking to Jason Palmer, the Man Who Beat Joe Biden in American Samoa

5 minute read

Jason Palmer, a Baltimore-based entrepreneur and largely unknown Democratic candidate, beat out President Joe Biden in Tuesday’s Democratic caucus in American Samoa.

Just 91 votes were cast in the U.S. territory that delivered Biden his first loss of the primary and his only loss on Super Tuesday, with 51 votes going to Palmer and 40 to Biden.

The win was as much a surprise to Palmer as it was to anyone else when his phone started buzzing with hundreds of messages Tuesday night. TIME talked to Palmer by phone on Wednesday about what lessons he took from his win, what he plans to do next, and whether Biden’s age will be a problem in the general election.

The following conversation has been lightly edited and condensed.

TIME: How did you find out about the win? What was your reaction? 

Palmer: I knew we were getting a lot of support in American Samoa because we had a great team on the ground and we did multiple virtual meetings. But I was surprised to get the announcement. My phone burned up with hundreds of text messages and people all trying to call me at the same time to let me know that we had won in American Samoa. 

I thought we would get one or two delegates because I knew we had all that support on the island, but to be the first Democratic challenger to an incumbent president to win a primary since 1980—I didn't think we would break a record like that. 

What are the main points that you’re running on? 

The main reasons I'm running are because we need to move our economy to conscious capitalism, we need to implement policies that generate millions of “new collar” economy jobs, and thirdly, we need to modernize our government to bring it up to technological 21st century standards.

What helped me win [American Samoa] was focusing on education, health care, and climate change, which are also important issues on my website and are [the issues] that resonated the most with the American Samoan people.

Why do you think American Samoa was the only place to buck Biden on Super Tuesday?

It's the first time that our advertising budget was probably about the same as Joe Biden's. The American Samoan people got to meet me and it was the first time there's been an equal matchup where he didn't outspend me 200 to one.

What do you think this says about how Democrats are feeling about Biden heading into the general election? 

It seems like every three days the New York Times headline says that two thirds of Democratic voters want a younger alternative. To me, this is the first time that voters have been able to recognize that I am a younger alternative with great ideas and leadership experience.

Read More: Young Progressive Activists Lay Out ‘Roadmap’ For Biden To Win Back Gen Z

What do you hope people take from your surprise victory? 

It's a real lesson to always pay attention to those whose voices most need to be amplified. And then the second thing is that there are other candidates in this race, including myself, and people really should take a look at who those other names are on the ballot and see if maybe they stand for your values more than Joe Biden does. And also that they might be younger and more energetic and be better able to beat Donald Trump in the fall.

On your campaign website, you call yourself “a longshot candidate.” Why run if you don't think you can win?

At the beginning, I did think I could win. I'm a venture capitalist, so I invest in long shots for a living. When I entered this race, I knew there was a less than 10% chance of me winning. Very few people beat incumbent presidents, but there was a 90% chance of actually changing the conversation, making sure that we were talking more about education as a key priority for our country, talking about conscious capitalism as a way to make our economy more equitable for all Americans, and talking about the new collar economy as a way to help more and more working class Americans get to $50,000 to $100,000 a year jobs. 

What do you plan to do next?

I’m focusing on the next states in line, Hawaii and Arizona.  I want to go to Arizona and meet with people locally on the ground there. My team and I have created a 12-page white paper on how to reform and improve and upgrade our immigration system, which we'll be releasing in the next few weeks. 

We will also be launching a new organization that aims to elect 20 people to Congress this fall, who are problem solvers who also believe in conscious capitalism, the “new collar” economy, and have entrepreneurship or technology experience to carry the mantle forward. 

What do you plan to do with your delegates?

Those delegates will be selected by the American Samoan people and we're going to go to the convention together and I'm going to represent American Samoa to the best of my ability. There are many more states to come, so we're hopefully going to get more delegates. The goal is to grow that number of delegates so that we show up to the convention with the largest possible number. I would love a convention speaking slot.

Any plans to visit American Samoa now?

Yes, it is a beautiful place. And I look forward to visiting at some time during this campaign season to celebrate with all 51 people who voted for me.

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Write to Simmone Shah at simmone.shah@time.com