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Senator Bernie Sanders managed to pull off his biggest win on Tuesday when he defeated Hillary Clinton in the Michigan primary. The same night, a strong anti-establishment support for Donald Trump was confirmed in the race for the Republican nomination, so it would appear that the battle is yet to rage on with the fury only presidential elections can evoke. Bernie won because of his consistent opposition to free trade deals and because Clinton’s dominance over African American voters has weakened.
The shocking victory, with its final result standing at 49.9%-48.2% with 99.3% reporting, comes even though Sanders trailed the former Secretary of State by an average of 21 points in recent opinion polling. Sanders addressed voters at a hastily arranged press conference in Miami, thanking them for their support. Here’s what he said:
“What tonight means is that the Bernie Sanders campaign, the people’s revolution that we are talking about, is strong in every part of the country, and frankly we believe that our strongest areas are yet to happen. I want to thank the people of Michigan who repudiated the polls which had us down 20-25 points and repudiated the pundits who said Bernie Sanders wasn’t going anywhere.”
The reason why Michigan is so important is because it has 130 delegates and is the second-largest prize of the election so far. However, although Bernie won, the proportional system used throughout the presidential primary by Democrats calculated that Clinton would still end the night ahead, thanks to the fact that she swept the floor with Bernie in Mississippi, winning 82.6%-16.5%. The thing is, Clinton won by such a hefty difference because of her overwhelming support among African American voters and it was widely expected that similar wipe-outs would happen elsewhere in the south. But as of recently, Clinton’s African American support is somewhat withering, which became apparent in the Michigan voting.
In fact, African Americans are obviously shifting their attention toward Sanders. Even though he struggled in the south to get above 15% of the vote with black people, exit polls in Michigan clearly showed that the Vermont senator won 30% of the African American vote, which is a 100% increase. That’s not a small difference and we’ve yet to see what Bernie will do with the newfound support flowing in from all sides – what he should do is build on his recent momentum and make the national race competitive again.
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Before Tuesday’s elections, Clinton was ahead of Sanders by 673-477 pledged delegates (including the vast majority of super delegates) and was nearly halfway to securing the 2,383 needed to snatch the Democratic nomination. Now, she has 1,221 delegates to his 571, but she has yet to win a state in the north by a convincing margin, which will be anything but easy. She has made squeaking wins in both Iowa and Massachusetts, beating Bernie by only a few thousand voters, but Sanders managed to win three of the latest four states voting over the weekend. If Clinton wants to present herself in an image dominating over a helpless Sanders, she’s going to have to break a sweat. Especially since the several big battlegrounds next week share similar demographic profiles with Michigan, as well as Ohio, Illinois, and Missouri, which vote on Tuesday 15 March.
But first, the two candidates are expected to duel again on the topic of economy at a televised debate in Miami on Wednesday night. Let’s not forget the last debate in Flint, Michigan, in which we had the chance to see some tension rising when Clinton accused Sanders of voting against the auto industry bailout – a claim he wholeheartedly denies and that appears not to have swayed voters at the center of the US car industry. They also clashed over who was doing more to help the city.
When the results began flooding in, many Clinton supporters were shocked, especially since their candidate urged Sanders to drop out and end the primary just a day earlier, calling his struggle pointless.
Here’s what US representative Brenda Lawrence of Michigan, who is a Clinton supporter, said:
“I’m on the edge of my seat. We worked so hard for this!”
The race is far from over.