In what Harry Enten over at 538 calls one of the biggest upsets in presidential election history, Bernie Sanders has won the Michigan primary, after polls up until election day had him trailing Hillary Clinton by an average of 25 points. His win is not only historic, it could signal a shift in Democratic primary that once again puts the senator from Vermont in a position to compete for the nomination.
Despite his Michigan win, however Sanders is still facing an uphill battle, as even on his big night yesterday Hillary Clinton went away with more delegates taking a total of 86 to his 69 from the two elections in Mississippi and Michigan.
The reason for this is that Clinton won Mississippi with 83% of the vote, while Sanders’ win in Michigan with 52% was much narrower. Even if he keeps winning in the states ahead, where Clinton is again leading in the polls very comfortably, he would have to win by much higher margins to cut into her lead of now 213 pledged delegates.
We at Globalo have cautioned the media’s quick dismissal of the Sanders campaign came to early. But to to be clear a Sanders candidacy is still a long shot. His supporters make 3 main arguments in his favor. To turn things around all of the following has to come true:
- The polling is off. Currently Clinton is leading Sanders by 20 points in Ohio, and a potentially devastating 30 points in Illinois. Both states go to the polls on March 15th and to remain in the race, Sanders has to win them both. If indeed the polling is as wrong as it was in Michigan, this is a real possibility, but if it isn’t, his surge could be over as quickly as it started.
- People still have’t heard his message. Not everybody follows politics as closely as those producing the news tend to assume. This means that despite the many months of campaigning, many people voting on March 15th haven’t heard Sander’s message yet. Once they do they might still be convinced to turn on Hillary.
- Hillary’s wins up to this point all came from the southern states with large minority electorates that are firmly in the Clinton camp. From now on, the map is more favorable to Sanders who scores better with predominately white working class voters. To retain a chance at the nomination, Sanders needs a winning streak in the rust belt that rivals Clinton’s rout in southern states. If he can’t pull it off, his chance look bleak.
- The Clinton campaign was optimistic despite the Michigan upset, and pointed to the fact the Mrs Clinton still ended the day expanding her delegate lead. In the end that’s what matters, and only if Sanders can defeat he in a way that upsets the balance on this front, should we regard him as a real contender.
- Meanwhile the Republicans continued their old game of battling each other to the benefit of Mr Trump. With Michigan, Mississippi and Hawaii, the Donald took away 3 states yesterday, while Ted Cruz won in Idaho. For the GOP establishment, March 15th is next chance to derai ´Trump’s campaign. In effect they need Mr Kasich to win his home state of Ohio, and Mr Rubio to win his home state of Florida in order to have a good chance at denying Mr Trump the delegates necessary to clinch the nomination. While Kasich is only 4 points behind Mr Trump in Ohio, Mr Rubio is trailing the Republican frontrunner by 20 points in Florida. If this trend holds, his home state could well become the final primary for Mr Rubio and the place where his race ends. In any case, the outcome of March 15h will determine how the GOP will try to stop Trump from becoming the nominee.
Three scenarios are possible. In order of probability:
- Kasich wins in Ohio while Rubio loses Florida: In that case the party will rally around Kasich and hope that between the two of them, Cruz and Kasich can win enough states to keep Trump from reaching 1,237 delegates.
- Both Rubio and Kasich lose their home states: In that case both men are likely to suspend their campaigns, making Ted Cruz the only one left to take on Trump. The GOP will grudgingly unite behind his candidacy to avert a Trump debacle in the general election. But for many it will be a compromise that is very tough to swallow.
- Both men win their home states: This would almost certainly lead to a situation where Cruz and the two establishment candidates keep taking votes away from each other, to the benefit of Donald Trump. It will mostly be luck from then on out whether one of them can outperform the others enough to win a state here and there, and most likely Trump will be the main beneficiary of this situation.