Bernie Sanders Wins The Michigan Democratic Primary

March 9, 2016

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Bernie Sanders has won the Michigan Democratic primary, the AP projects. That’s the biggest news out of Tuesday night’s presidential nomination races. Though Clinton had led consistently in recent polls, Sanders squeaked out a narrow win, with a two-percentage-point lead with 94 percent of precincts reporting.

Meanwhile, Hillary Clinton won easily in Mississippi earlier in the evening. And in the Republican races that have been called thus far, Donald Trump can claim two victories, Ted Cruz one, and Hawaii has yet to post results.

Here’s what you need to know thus far:

Idaho

  • Ted Cruz has won the Idaho Republican primary, the AP projects.
  • The Texas senator won handily in the deep red state. With 51 percent of precincts reporting, Cruz (with nearly 43 percent of the vote) led second-place Donald Trump by nearly 15 points.

Michigan

  • Bernie Sanders has won the Michigan Democratic primary, the AP projects.
  • Donald Trump has won the Michigan Republican primary, the AP projects.
  • Ohio Gov. John Kasich also posted a strong showing and is in a close race for second with Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, according to results reported by CNN.
  • Trump was broadly popular across lots of groups, according to exit polls. Kasich, meanwhile, performed particularly well among voters with postgraduate education, moderates, and people who said they were choosing a candidate because they disliked the others.
  • Exit polls in that state show some expected patterns: Clinton did better among older voters, while Sanders far and away won younger ones. Clinton won black voters over Sanders 65-30. However, that’s not nearly as strong as her performance among black voters in some southern states.

Mississippi

  • Donald Trump has won the Republican primary in Mississippi, the AP projects.
  • Hillary Clinton has won that state’s Democratic primary, the AP projects.
  • That state has 36 Democratic delegates up for grabs and 40 on the Republican side.
  • One big factor in Clinton’s win: black voters made up more than 6 in 10 Mississippi voters, according to early exit polls. Clinton won 89 percent of those voters, to Sanders’ 11.
  • On the Republican side, exit polls suggest it was largely a two-person race, between Trump and Texas Sen. Ted Cruz.
  • Trump was strong among a broad swath of demographic groups, but Cruz showed particular strength among voters who were very conservative, want a candidate who shares their values, and want an experienced candidate.

The Big Questions Tonight Answered

Can Sanders really hold his own in Michigan?

Yes.

Sanders’ narrow win over Clinton is the biggest story of the night. Recent polls had shown Sanders behind Clinton by double digits.

It may be a sign of Clinton’s vulnerabilities. Sanders had blasted Clinton on trade in Michigan, and his win may prove that that strategy was successful. He had targeted Clinton’s past support for trade policies like NAFTA and the Obama Administration’s Trans Pacific Partnership, saying that trade pacts kill the kinds of manufacturing jobs that many Michiganders have.

In exit polls, the majority of Michigan voters (58 percent) said they think trade takes away U.S. jobs, and Sanders was strong among those voters, with 56 percent of their vote. With another big-delegate Rust Belt state (Ohio) coming up next week, expect to see the Sanders camp amplify the trade message.

The question is what this does for Sanders. With Mississippi and Michigan taken together, Clinton will win more delegates tonight.

Can Trump rack up more decisive wins?

Yes…but not everywhere.

Prior to Tuesday night, Trump had received more than 40 percent support in 5 out of 20 contests, as NPR’s Domenico Montanaro reported this week. Tonight, he notched another of those big wins in Mississippi, where he had 47 percent of the vote (with 91 percent of precincts reporting).

In that state, it was largely a two-person race between Trump and Cruz. But in Michigan, where Kasich was competitive, Trump came in at around 36 percent. One thing to watch going ahead is — as other GOP candidates drop out — how many of their voters flock to Trump vs. another not-Trump candidate.

What’s Rubio’s situation?

Not good.

Marco Rubio didn’t even score double digits in Mississippi or Michigan, and in Idaho, he’s currently in third place.

The Florida Republican senator has only won one state thus far, with a Super Tuesday win in Minnesota. The question now is what he does next. In a Tuesday radio interview with Hugh Hewitt, Rubio said that he’d stay in the race until the March 15 contest in Florida.

Since it’s a winner-take-all state, Florida is a GOP delegate goldmine. And it’s Rubio’s home state, so he believes he can still rally some support there. The problem for Rubio is that recent polls have him double-digits behind Trump in Florida. Of course, polls have been known to be wrong (see: tonight’s Democratic race in Michigan). But if Rubio can’t pull out a win in Florida, it could be a crippling blow to his campaign.


What Comes Next

The Democrats move straight from a hard-fought primary to a debate — Clinton and Sanders will debate in Miami on Wednesday night. Their last debate, in Flint, featured some of their testiest exchanges to date, so the question is whether the Miami event will be as fiery.

And for politics diehards who just can’t get enough debating, Republicans will meet in their own Miami debate on Thursday. Given that it’s a home turf debate for Rubio just days before that state’s crucial primary, he will be the candidate to watch. The question here may be how he differentiates himself.

Then on Tuesday, March 15, five states will hold both Democratic and Republican contests. Given that all five have considerable delegate prizes — and that three of those on the GOP side are winner-take-all — this will be another Super Tuesday of sorts, and one that could make the lay of the land much clearer in both races.


The Delegate Situation

Altogether, 316 delegates are up for grabs tonight — 150 for Republicans and 166 for Democrats (this does not count the unpledged superdelegates that factor into the Democratic race).

Trump’s wins in Mississippi and Michigan will give him a further boost over his competition. Heading into Tuesday night, Trump had 384 delegates, compared to Texas Sen. Ted Cruz’s 300, Marco Rubio’s 151, and Kasich’s 37.

Meanwhile, Clinton could gain more delegates tonight than Sanders. Even if he wins Michigan, her big win in Mississippi could help her expand her delegate lead over Bernie Sanders. Going into Tuesday night, Clinton had won 673 pledged delegates, compared to 477 for her opponent, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders.

Copyright 2016 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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