March Madness: Sanders Takes Michigan in Huge Upset

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March Madness: Sanders Takes Michigan in Huge Upset

A child holds a sign that reads “A Future to Believe In” before U.S. Democratic presidential candidate and U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders addressed students and community members during a campaign meeting with students at Concord High School in Concord, New Hampshire January 22, 2016. (Photo: Katherine Taylor/Reuters)

Bernie Sanders shocked the political world with a stunning victory in the Michigan primary Tuesday night, coming back from 20 percent down in polling to win by some 2 percent of the vote. After all the weeks of commentary about Bernie Sanders’ problem with black voters, the spotlight after Michigan will turn to Hillary Clinton’s problem with white male voters, young voters and independents.

Clinton won African-American voters again, but by much lower margins than she enjoyed in the South, with Sanders faring well among younger African-Americans. Sanders won the young vote once more by commanding margin – 81 percent to 18 percent for voters under 29, won independents 71 percent to 28 percent and won white voters 57 percent to 41 percent (white men by virtually two to one). The gender gap was less in evidence. Sanders won unmarried women and men, married men while losing married women.

Sanders gained with a message focused on trade, Wall Street, the rigged economy and our corrupted politics. Three-fifths of the voters thought our trade policies took away jobs; Sanders won those by 58 percent to 41 percent.

"Clinton may well have paid a price for her cynical attack on Sanders in the Sunday Michigan debate, when she distorted his vote on the auto bailout."

Clinton may well have paid a price for her cynical attack on Sanders in the Sunday Michigan debate, when she distorted his vote on the auto bailout. (Sanders supported the bailout, but voted against Bush’s bank bailout even when some of the auto money was folded into it). The Clinton low blow angered UAW leaders and activists, and was challenged by a Sanders ad and in the press and social media. It reminded many of the cynical tactics that sour people on politics, and may well have reminded many of Clinton’s unconvincing campaign conversion from supporting corporate deals to opposing the Trans-Pacific Partnership that was negotiated while she was Secretary of State. The punditry praised Clinton’s ploy. But at a time when voters are disgusted by political games and posturing, it added to their doubts about Clinton – and of course infuriated Sanders’ supporters.

Polls reflected the continuing contrasts between the candidates. Sanders beat Clinton among those most concerned about honesty and trustworthiness – by a stunning 80 percent to 19 percent, and among those who value those who care for people like them, 54 percent to 42 percent. Clinton won those most concerned with experience and electability.

Clinton won Mississippi, continuing her sweep of the red states of the South that Democrats don’t win in general elections. With the Michigan vote basically split, she ended the night extending her delegate lead.

Sanders continues on the rise. After winning caucuses in Kansas, Nebraska and Maine over the weekend, his victory in the Michigan primary gives him momentum headed into next Tuesday when Ohio, Missouri and Illinois vote along with Florida and North Carolina. Last night’s triumph will inspire activists and volunteers, and his army of small donors. Celebrating the unexpected victory, Sanders noted that “our strongest areas are yet to happen.”

Sanders is driving the issue debate in the campaign. He’s rousing the young, attracting independents, bringing the new voters into the party. He clearly has captured the future of the party. His integrity is clear. His commitment and independence demonstrated in how he funds his campaign. The Michigan win will surely quiet the din of the mainstream media claiming that the race is already over. This race is only beginning to heat up, as Sanders has more time to introduce himself, his passion and his message to the American people.

"[Sanders is] rousing the young, attracting independents, bringing the new voters into the party. He clearly has captured the future of the party."

On the Republican side, Donald Trump won Mississippi, completing his virtual sweep of the South. He also won Michigan. In both, Ted Cruz came in second, with Marco Rubio, the establishment favorite, trailing badly. Cruz won the Idaho caucus. Cruz is increasingly establishing himself as Trump’s challenger, a nightmare for the Republican establishment. And thus far, the millions being poured into negative ads against Trump haven’t stopped his march. More and more Americans dislike him, but he sustained his base in the Republican contests. If he beats Rubio in Florida and John Kasich in his native Ohio next week, the Republican race will be effectively over.

Robert Borosage

Robert Borosage

Robert Borosage is the founder and president of the Institute for America’s Future and co-director of its sister organization, the Campaign for America’s Future.

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