By Miriam Raftery
March 10, 2016 (San Diego) –Senator Bernie Sanders scored an upset victory over former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in the Michigan primary, shocking pollsters who had predicted Clinton would win by as much as 20 points in the delegate-rich state. Clinton won in Missisippi, however, maintaining her edge overall, for now.
A record turn-out of 2.5 million people in Michigan helped Donald Trump win big in the Republican primary; the billionaire businessman also won Mississippi and the Hawaiian Republican caucus.Senator Ted Kruz placed second in all three states, strengthening his position as the only Republican likely to have any chance to top Trump before the Republican nominating convention.
Currently Trump has 458 delegates, Kruz 359, Marco Rubio 151 and John Kasich 54. To win the GOP nomination requires 1,237 delegates.
On the Democratic side, Clinton has 760 delegates and Sanders 546, of those delegates determined by the popular vote. But Clinton still has a commanding lead among super delegates, with 461 pledged to Clinton and just 25 to Sanders.
Sanders could close the gap farther or surpass Clinton in the popular vote, since nearly all of the Southern states, Clinton’s strongest area, have voted. Sanders’ win in Michigan shows his ability to connect with voters in urban industrial areas, with primaries in other industrial states such as Ohio and Illinois coming up soon. Large liberal states with massive numbers of delegates follow soon after, including California, New York, Pennsylvania and New Jersey.
What accounted for the Sanders surge on the Democratic side?
A debate in Flint, Michigan after the last polls showed Clinton misleading voters by claiming Sanders opposed the auto bailout bill. (He supported it as a stand-alone bill, but voted against a bailout bill for big banks that had an auto industry bailout rolled in.) As word spread on social media, some voters reacted angrily. Both Clinton and Sanders called for action on the Flint poisoned water crisis, but Sanders gained ground in pointing up Clinton’s past support for trade pacts that sent U.S. manufacturing jobs overseas—pacts such as NAFTA, which he opposed.
The latest Democratic debate in Florida focused largely on immigration issues. Though both Clinton and Sanders denounced the broad deportations touted by Trump and both said they would not deport children, Clinton’s change of position again came to light since she had recently voiced support for the deportation of Central American children. Post-debate polls showed most Latino voters believed Sanders won the Florida debate.
Of seven major polls taken in 2016 thus far, six found that only Sanders would beat Trump. The seventh found Trump would beat either Clinton or Sanders, though Clinton would lose by a wider margin, Politifact reports.
On the Republican side, the two latest debates provided some memorable moments. Trump scored a dubious first in a presidential debate by boasting about the size of his penis, noting that Rubio had referred to “my hands--`if they’re small, something else must be small.’ I guarantee you, there’s no problem.”
In a separate debate in Miami, Republicans sparred over Islam, Israel, and immigration.
Trump doubled down on his statement that “Islam hates us,”adding, “I don’t want to be so politically correct…We better solve the problem before it’s too late.” Rubio said presidents’ statements have “consequences” and noted that to weed out radical Islam, American will have to work with ally nations and “people of the Muslim faith.”
On Israeli-Palestinian relations, Trump insisted he wants to remain neutral to broker a deal, while Cruz countered that he will “not be neutral.” Both claimed to be pro-Israel.
On immigration, Trump admitted to hypocrisy in hiring workers under the H-1B visa program that encourages legal immigration for high-skilled workers. “I use it. I shouldn’t be allowed to use it,” said Trump who wants to abolish the program.
Trump drew controversy this week for urging followers at rallies to hold up their right hands to pledge loyalty to him, an image that drew comparisons to Heil Hitler salutes. He defended the actions. He also has drawn criticism for growing violence targeting black people at his rallies, including an incident in which a Trump supporter punched an individual in the face.
As for the possibility of a brokered Republican convention in which an outsider such as Mitt Romney could potentially emerge as the nominee if neither Trump nor Kruz gets a majority of delegates, both the frontrunners agreed on one point: they want to see delegates support whoever gets the most popular votes.