March 10, 2016 — Sen. Bernie Sanders’ upset victory over former Secretary of State and race leader Hillary Clinton in the Michigan Democratic primary is causing people to ask some surprising questions. Factoring in Clinton’s overwhelming 83 percent victory in the Mississippi primary, she will add to her national delegate lead so she is still in strong shape for the nomination despite the Wolverine State setback … at least for now.
The top observation spawning from Tuesday night pertains to whether Sanders can take advantage of the campaign schedule once it moves more toward the type of states where he has consistently been winning. Can he fully capitalize upon an election calendar that is about to become much more favorable to him?
Since Clinton’s strong delegate lead is largely based upon her overwhelming dominance among Super Delegates — those elected Democratic officials and party leaders who are largely free agents at the convention — will those individuals begin to back away if Sanders overtakes her among the regular delegates?
Additionally, what effect will her poor performance in two such critical general election states like Michigan and New Hampshire have upon the November outcome?
The Sanders’ Michigan win is significant because this is the first time he has out-polled Clinton in a big state, and one that features a major African-American population. He again continues to out-poll her among white voters, while it is the black Democratic voter who has delivered overwhelming support for the former First Lady. This, coupled with her dominance among the Democratic Super Delegates, allows her to tighten her grip upon the party nomination.
Her mounting problem is that the heavy African-American states have largely voted. Only North Carolina and Maryland remain as places where the African-American base heavily influences the Democratic primary. Unless she shows greater strength in the northeast, the Plains states, and the far west, those Super Delegate supporters may begin to falter.
The Democratic situation now merits greater attention because we can now at least see a scenario where the nomination begins to slip through Clinton’s hands.
The Republican side unfolded as projected, with Donald Trump taking Mississippi, Michigan, and Hawaii, while Sen. Ted Cruz placed first in Idaho.
Gov. John Kasich needed a strong showing in Michigan to provide a springboard into what is becoming the all-important Ohio Winner-Take-All contest next Tuesday.
Finishing virtually tied for second – coming in about 8,000 votes behind Cruz but tying him in delegate apportionment – may be enough to energize his Ohio effort, but it also may prove too little, too late. This is yet another question that last night failed to answer.
As Sen. Marco Rubio continues to falter, a further question must be asked about whether he suspends his campaign before absorbing what portends to be a debilitating loss in his home state of Florida. Polls do show Rubio making gains in the Sunshine State and getting to within a 5-8 point striking distance, but did a poor performance Tuesday night end his hopes?
Additionally, will Ohio become this campaign’s determinative factor? It appears probable that a Trump victory in that Winner-Take-All state on March 15 will possibly give him enough momentum to barely capture a first ballot victory. Should Kasich rebound to carry Ohio, and he is already pulling to within a small single-digit gap behind Trump before the Michigan vote was tabulated, will he carry on in an attempt to force a contested convention with he and Cruz attempting to accumulate enough delegates to deny Trump a majority?
Next Tuesday will answer many of these questions. In addition to Florida and Ohio, the important states of North Carolina, Illinois, Missouri, as well as the Northern Marianas Islands will vote. In all, 367 Republican delegates will be apportioned that day. Should Trump take the 165 votes from the big Winner-Take-Alls, and then claim approximately 42 percent of the remaining delegates from the other places, he will land at or around the 700 committed vote mark, or close to 57 percent of what he needs to win the nomination. If this were to happen, the Trump bandwagon might become too big and too fast to derail.