Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Michigan Primary Results

Last night Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders managed to beat former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in the March 8 Michigan Democratic Primary by 49.83% to 48.3%. This slim margin of victory for Sanders was astounding given that polls shortly before the vote showed that Clinton was ahead by double digits. Michigan has a primary which is closed (technically defined as closed because you have to declare party affiliation before you can get a ballot) but there is not a requirement that you are a registered member of one party or another. So there might be some sour grapes among partisans of one party or another who are convinced that their preferred candidate only lost because of those rascally rapscallions of the other party who lied about their party affiliation just to cast a vote in a different primary. But at this point there is no evidence of that. Michigan is different from the southern states which Clinton was winning handily (like Mississippi which Clinton won 83-17) in that (1) there are still white Democrats in Michigan, (2) there is still an active (but dying) union movement, and (3) Michigan lacks a huge Hispanic or Asian population. Sanders' attempt to make his case to Black voters paid off in Michigan. He got roughly 30~35% of the Black vote, which coupled with a more competitive percentage of the white vote allowed him to win. In Michigan in particular there's a strong undercurrent of discontent over NAFTA, "free trade" and globalization which was likely more fertile ground for Sanders' message. Michigan is ground zero for the loss of high wage middle class manufacturing jobs. In any event Sanders still has an uphill battle for the nomination but last night showed that it's not time for his political funeral just yet. Clinton will need to alter her message a bit so that it can resonate with a few more male voters in the Midwest, especially white ones. I think it's interesting that Clinton has mostly run up the score in states that will almost certainly be in the Republican column on election day. Michigan is whiter than the nation as a whole but it's also a state which usually leans Democratic. That Sanders won here after being down by such a huge margin has to give pause to some people in the Clinton camp. The big question will be if Michigan is just a bump in the road to the inevitable Clinton nomination or is it a harbinger for a comeback which hasn't been seen in modern times.

Donald Trump won the Republican Primary in Michigan with 37% of the vote. I also think he won in part because of his nationalist stance on trade issues. I think he will be the Republican nominee. Cruz came in second at 25% while Ohio Governor Kasich finished third at 24%. Marco Rubio finished fourth with just 9% of the vote and lacks any reason to keep going other than spite. Rubio did win in Puerto Rico but of course Puerto Rico provides no electoral votes. Perhaps Rubio will soldier on until the primary in his home state of Florida but he's currently behind there. 
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