In 2016, Bernie Sanders’ incredible Michigan upheaval against Hillary Clinton pushed his campaign forward and radically changed the course of the race just as some had started canceling it.
Four years later, the Vermont senator returns to Michigan and needs another victory in the run for Democratic nominations, as the state represents a crucial possibility for his campaign after former Vice President Joe Biden took the lead Tuesday .
While Sanders’ populist message and democratic socialism resonated with Michigan’s large population of white working-class voters in an economically anxious state in 2016, Trump’s fear of another four years is now a major motivator for Democrats and which many now believe in Biden’s most established cause.
Michigan’s latest poll mirrors others across the country and suggests that the state is leaning towards Biden. While Sanders led up to nine points in late February, a survey taken after Biden’s huge victory in South Carolina took Biden to seven.
But despite the appearance of an uphill battle, there is optimism among Sanders supporters, who points out that he generally voted better than Biden in a hypothetical meeting against the President of Michigan.
“He’s working on it and Biden isn’t,” said Detroit-based Kevin Allen, who voted for Sanders in the last primary. “His policies help Michigan. Biden no. It’s a new state and so far there have been many ups and downs in the race. “
Three voter groups extensively boosted Sanders in Michigan in 2016. He did particularly well with the white working-class voters, won a larger share of the black vote than expected, and overwhelmingly won the young voters who turned out to be big. number.
In the days leading up to Tuesday’s game, Sanders has put together a “quit voting” swing that targets those groups. This started with a Friday night event in Detroit, which is 80% black. As in any other part of the country, it is probing particularly well with young African American voters in Michigan. The swing also included a stop in Grand Rapids, a largely white and liberal city in western Michigan where Sanders profoundly defeated Clinton in 2016.
The campaign canceled a Saturday rally scheduled for Jackson, Mississippi and instead visited Ann Arbor, a young liberal campus. He also added a stop to Dearborn, a working-class city with a large Muslim population that is a stronghold of Sanders’ support.
Biden, by contrast, has spent only about $ 500,000 on television commercials in Michigan, and his only confirmed stop so far in the state is a fundraiser in Grosse Pointe, one of the wealthiest cities in the state. However, Biden has not campaigned in many Super Tuesday states and that hasn’t stopped him from winning in unexpected places like Minnesota, Massachusetts and Maine.
But Sanders partially won Michigan in 2016 because he made many more stops here than Clinton, and the swing of the vote is “exactly what he has to do,” said state deputy Yousef Rabhi, an Ann Arbor progressive. who supported Sanders.
“Bernie Sanders shows up, he’s here on the ground … and you have to be here, to be present to win,” said Rabhi. “He is organizing demonstrations, reviving young, elderly and people of all backgrounds and enthusiastic to vote for him.”
Critics also note that one of the few stops Biden has made in Michigan in recent years has ended up helping incumbent Republican MP Fred Upton defeat a Democratic challenger during the 2018 mid-term election. The incident – in which Biden he garnered praise for Upton in a speech later used in Republican advertisements – infuriated local party officials and was seen as crucial to Upton’s victory.
Sanders is considered stronger on the environment and the only one to express opposition to Line 5, a controversial proposed oil pipeline that would cross the Great Lakes. He is also pounding Biden for his support for the NAFTA trade deal, which many believe is responsible for the decimation of the Michigan working class amid mass factory closings. Clinton’s support for the unpopular trade deal was partly behind his losses here, and Rabhi said Biden’s votes on NAFTA are also a serious responsibility, even potentially against Trump.
However, the trade problem appears to have Sanders less mileage than 2016, Michigan pollster Bernie Porn said.
“Trade doesn’t seem to have the same resonance in 2020 compared to ’16,” he said.
This seems supported by the results of Super Tuesday. Biden has won white working-class voters in eight states, a phenomenon that has raised him in Minnesota, which has a similar electorate to Michigan and could foreshadow what will come Tuesday. Sanders won Minnesota with 62% of the votes in 2016, but this year only got 30%. Porn has noted that the failure of young people is partially responsible and claims that reversing the trend is central to Sanders’ hopes in Michigan.
“In almost all other states Bernie has failed in terms of younger voters, so the question is in Michigan:” Can it generate turnout among younger voters that it hasn’t spawned in most other states, “said porn.
There are other variables that make Michigan unpredictable too. Progressive fellow Senator Elizabeth Warren has now exited the race and this could hinder Sanders’ support. However, there has been no poll since the announcement, it has not supported anyone and some polls show that many of its supporters support Biden. However, Sanders’ base remains optimistic.
“There is too much unknown to count in Michigan,” Allen said.