Ryan S. Amado
It seems that Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) has finally found some cracks within the Hillary Clinton firewall. Going into the March 8 primaries, the Sanders Camp found itself caught in precarious situation. With dismal numbers among African American voters in the south (who make up much of the base), a loss in Mississippi was inevitable, matching the narrative every southern state has written thus far.
And, despite the northwest becoming a more hotly contested region, nearly every poll in Michigan showed Sanders losing by double digits, some by as much as 37 points. With victory seemingly out of his grasp, most expected the Vermont Senator to end the night with no wins and only a few new delegates. Instead, the nation gave witness to one of the greatest upsets in political history. In a tightly contested race, Sanders won the Michigan Primary by a mere 20,000 votes, and nearly matched Clinton’s delegate count for the night (after her landslide win in Mississippi).
There is a multitude of reasons why Sanders was able to pull this off. First, he had the luxury of an open primary, allowing him to access independent voters. Among them, exit polls showed 71% voted for Sanders. Those same polls offered other noteworthy statistics. His percentage among African American voters increased, and was 10% higher than it was in Mississippi. This illustrates the possibility that Sanders’ message may be starting to resonate more strongly within the African American community, at least in the Industrial Midwest. As with most states thus far, his dominance with voters aged 18-44 continued as well.
Sanders can also give credit to his two strong performances in both the CNN Democratic Debate on Sunday, and Fox News Democratic Town Hall on Monday. In both instances, he was able to speak directly to the people of Michigan and get his message across. A notable instance during the debate came when Secretary Clinton tried to claim Senator Sanders voted against the 2008 Auto Bailout, which saved thousands of jobs in that area.
The Vermont Senator reminded her that he refused to vote for a Wall Street bailout, and did not vote against saving the auto industry. He then noted that the Bailout, as well as other trade agreements she’s been in support of, are behind some of the factors which caused the region to be gutted for jobs in the first place. The attack by Clinton was considered a blunder by most pundits.
It should also be noted that Sanders benefited from the presumptuous attitude coming from the Clinton Camp, as well as her supporters. Over the past week or so, Secretary Clinton has pivoted towards the general election, launching attacks on Republican Front-Runner Donald Trump and the state of his campaign. She has also called for all democratic voters to start unifying and rallying around her (in essence, hinting Sanders should drop out). What is most telling, however, is the actions of her supporters in Michigan. Clinton voters were so sure that she would win, some actually voted for Republican John Kasich in order to help the Never Trump Movement.
After Tuesday’s wild ride, thunderous support for Sanders was on full display during the Univision Democratic Debate, one which ended with standing ovation and resounding “BERNIE!” chant from the crowd during his final remarks. The debate itself was not much different from the others, but the crowd reaction a lot different. It is becoming clearer and clearer that more of the nation is beginning to Feel the Bern.
With the March 15 primaries ahead (OH, FL, IL, NC, MO), Sanders is looking to keep this wave of momentum going strong. In order to keep hope for his campaign alive, the Senator must win Ohio or Florida, which will reward him a favorable amount of delegates. If support for him in the Industrial Midwest is indeed increasing, there is no reason to count him out in Ohio, nor Illinois and Missouri, despite recent polling.
In the south however, it is unlikely he will win North Carolina, as he has not done well in the Bible Belt states. Florida is a different story, as it is demographically different than most southern states, and his campaign has spent much more time and money there than in most of the southern states Secretary Clinton has already won. No matter the result, the Sanders campaign will surely fight on until the fat lady does indeed sing.