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to Section One | to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, March 11, 2016 - Volume 44 Issue 11
Democratic primaries: Bernie takes Michigan

Can he repeat in Ohio?
Section One
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Democratic primaries: Bernie takes Michigan

Can he repeat in Ohio?

by Mike Andrew - SGN Staff Writer

Bernie Sanders scored an upset win in Michigan on March 8, overcoming a 20-point polling deficit to beat Hillary Clinton by two points, 50% to 48%.

As expected, Clinton swept the Mississippi primary the same day, giving her a net gain in convention delegates for the day, but the loss of Michigan - a major industrial state that Democrats must win to win the presidency - was a setback to her campaign.

While Clinton won in black-majority Detroit and Flint, she failed to carry African-American voters in the same proportions that she gets in Southern states. In Michigan, she beat Sanders 3-to-2 among African-American voters, as opposed to the 4-1 margin she got in Mississippi.

In downtown Detroit, Clinton won by 20 points, but in the Detroit suburbs she beat Sanders by less than one percentage point.

Sanders carried the industrial city of Grand Rapids by 15 points, as well as the college towns of Ann Arbor (also by 15 points) and Kalamazoo (by more than 20 points).

Sanders ran up big margins among younger voters and split white working-class voters - the core of Clinton's support in her 2008 run against then-Sen. Barack Obama - pretty evenly with Clinton.

While Clinton is still far ahead in pledged delegates, and even further ahead in unelected 'superdelegates,' the primaries in Southern states where she has done well are almost complete. Sanders may do well in the remaining state primaries, in the so-called Rust Belt and on the 'Left Coast.'

In Ohio, which votes on March 15, Clinton is up by 20 points in the polls, just as she was in Michigan, and that is not the only similarity between the two states.

Ohio shares Michigan's industrial history and has a similar demographic mix. Ohio also exhibits the same sort of electoral conditions as Michigan, and those could prove just as receptive to Sanders' criticism of free trade deals and corporate welfare.

Michigan's Democratic stronghold is in the eastern part of the state, running from Detroit north to Flint. In Ohio, Democratic territory is based in Cleveland, Cincinnati, and, to a lesser extent, Toledo.

Like Michiganders, Ohio's Democratic voters are largely blue-collar workers who feel threatened by globalization and a changing economy. Labor unions, while smaller than in the past, remain politically powerful in both states.

Trade deals like NAFTA - which Bill Clinton signed and Hillary supported - are not popular with working-class voters in either state. In fact, Sanders' longtime opposition to free trade may explain why he was able to make greater inroads with African-American voters in Michigan than in Southern states.

Also like Michigan, Ohio's Democratic primary is open, meaning that independents - who may not have the same nostalgia for the Clintons as rank-and-file Democrats do - will be able to vote. That might also increase Sanders' chances of pulling out a victory.

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