Feel the Bern! (Posted on March 9)
Bernie Sanders put it all on the line in Michigan, but even he didn’t think he had a chance to win here March 8 after every poll, national as well as state-based, showed him getting creamed in the Great Lakes State by Hillary Clinton. One poll, taken just 24 hours before voting began (remember, though, that one-third of the ballots had already been cast absentee), showed him losing by 24 percentage points.
Yet Sanders won by nearly 2%. In retrospect, it was testimony to his hard work in Michigan and, most important, to his spending. Sanders spent nearly $3 million in Michigan, well more than Clinton and far more than any Republican candidate. This was the most expensive presidential primary in Michigan history, shattering all previous records, with more than $8 million being spent overall.
Sanders drew huge and enthusiastic crowds in Michigan — some 9,500 at Easter Michigan University last month, and more than 10,000 at MSU’s Breslin Center in East Lansing a couple of weeks later. The issue of trade, which was the focal point of the Sanders-Clinton debate in Flint on March 6, was perhaps the decisive ingredient in Sanders’s victory. Clinton was vulnerable on the issue, because of her husband’s championing of NAFTA and her early support (later reversed) for the Trans-Pacific Trade Agreement. Meanwhile, Sanders excoriated U.S. trade deals that he argued had hollowed out Michigan’s manufacturing industry and cost the state tens of thousands of jobs.
Sanders did better among African-American voters in Michigan than he ever had done in any other state, drawing some 30%, and as usual he scored big with the youngest voters (34 and younger). He also got a big boost from Independents, who can vote in either party’s primary and provided him with his margin of victory in Michigan.
Amazingly, Clinton still emerges from Michigan with more delegates than Sanders, because of her support from so-called “Super Delegates” whose backing doesn’t depend on election results. But Sanders got a huge psychological boost from his Michigan win, and he reinforced the growing realization that Clinton is a flawed potential Democratic nominee, with high “unfavorables” and an “untrustworthy” factor that makes Sanders’s “authenticity” even more appealing than it already is.