Bernie Sanders' Historic Michigan Win Might Change Everything
Last night, the delegate rich state of Michigan became the center of a historic political moment. The Tuesday night showdown up North in the Wolverine state was already slated to be big, and by the time polls closed, state records had already been shattered. More than 2.4 million Democratic and Republican voters showed up to polling sites across the state to break 1972’s record turnout of 1.9 million voters and ensure that this would be one of the biggest political battles since voting began last month. Michigan wasn’t the only primary battle last night, of course, but it was by far the most politically explosive. Democrats also voted in Mississippi, while Republicans held contests in Idaho and Hawaii, but it was what happened in Michigan that has sent shockwaves throughout the country because of how unprecedented it was.
Despite trailing in polls by nearly 20 percentage points in the days leading up to voting, Bernie Sanders beat Hillary Clinton and won the state in a tight race that came down to about 20,000 votes. The two candidates spent weeks heavily campaigning throughout the state and engaged in a fierce and polarizing Democratic debate on Sunday in Flint, where the water crisis has taken the national spotlight. Nobody had predicted that Sanders would win as poll after poll showed him losing among voters by about 20 percent. Nate Silver, the statistician who famously predicted the outcomes of 49 out of the 50 states in the 2008 U.S. Presidential election, even gave Hillary a 99% chance of winning the state. Yet, as voting closed and tallies were made, Bernie staged the biggest upset in decades and proved that his campaign is here for the long haul. The problem is that, even with the huge burst of momentum this will inevitably cause, Bernie’s prospects of winning the nomination are still not great. Why? Like Transformers, there’s more than meets the eye when it comes to state primaries.
Unlike in the Republican party, Democratic states award delegates proportionally based on popular votes, which makes all of these narrow wins a lot more complicated. As big as the Michigan win was for Bernie, he still finished behind Hillary for the night in terms of delegates thanks to her landslide 82.6% to 16.5% win in Mississippi. She’s already ahead in delegates awarded based on popular vote, with 759 to Bernie’s 571, thanks to a commanding dominance in Southern states where most of the primaries have been held. As the contests move forward, Bernie is going to have an uphill battle trying to catch up without relying on narrow wins. Because delegates are awarded proportionally, he’s going to have to win commanding victories by double digit margins to overtake Clinton, which will only get more difficult every day. Tonight, the two candidates will face off in a debate before heading into battle for a Super Tuesday threequel next week that’ll play out across Florida, Illinois, Missouri, North Carolina, and Idaho. Despite being seen by many as “one of the greatest upsets in modern political history,” the Michigan win will mean nothing for Bernie unless he starts winning big. Until then, he’s going to remain one step behind Hillary’s path toward the nomination.
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Images via Time, Wall Street Journal, and Bloomberg.