On the second Super Tuesday, former Vice President Joe Biden defeated Sen. Bernie Sanders (S-USSR) in the crucial battleground state of Michigan. Michigan gave Sanders his big win in the 2016 primary against Hillary Clinton, and Bernie himself said, “Michigan is an enormously important state.”
At about 9 p.m. Eastern, the Associated Press projected Biden would defeat Bernie in Michigan. With 42 percent reporting, Biden led with roughly 53 percent of the vote to Sanders’ 41 percent. The Wolverine State will award 125 pledged delegates, allocated on the basis of congressional districts, party leaders, and at-large positions.
Biden narrowly leads Sanders in the delegate count, 632 to 536, following his stunning upset wins on Super Tuesday. Former 2020 candidates have rallied around the former vice president, as even some of his harshest critics — including Sens. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) and Cory Booker (D-N.J.) — endorsed him. As results rolled in on March 10, Biden won Mississippi, Missouri, and Michigan, notching three more victories over Sanders.
The former VP’s victories on the second Super Tuesday will not give him a majority of the delegates in the Democratic primary, but the victory in Michigan represents a key defeat for Sanders, Biden’s last remaining viable challenger.
One of Bernie’s strongest arguments in favor of his radical candidacy has been the idea that he will energize the Democrats and push turnout up to new heights. The “democratic” socialist promised to get new voters to the polls, creating a new coalition of young people, Hispanics, and more. Much of that narrative came from Sanders’s upset victory in Michigan in 2016.
Yet as Politico‘s Tim Alberta warned on Monday, Michigan’s 2016 primary wasn’t just a victory for Bernie — it was a “sneak preview of November 2016.” Democrats in Michigan saw “disturbingly low turnout. They saw [Hillary] Clinton failing to energize black voters. They saw young people and independents rebelling against the Democratic front-runner. They saw white working-class voters abandoning her, and the party, in numbers that were once unfathomable.”
Alberta noted that “Clinton’s loss to Sanders in Michigan resembled a giant, mitten-shaped red flag. She won only 28 percent of self-described independents. She performed just as dismally among young voters, winning 32 percent of those under age 45. She was beaten in rural and exurban counties across the state, losing whites without a college degree by 15 percentage points. Even Clinton’s 40-point victory among black voters couldn’t make up for these deficits, because turnout of black voters—as with Democratic turnout across the board—was so underwhelming. (There were 130,000 more votes cast in the GOP primary, a fact Democrats shrugged off at the time.)”
It remains to be seen if Joe Biden can reverse this turnout trend, driving black voters to the polls in an echo of Barack Obama. Even if the Biden turnout in Michigan is strong on March 10, that is no guarantee that it will reach similar levels in November — but it might show that black voters have more enthusiasm for Obama’s former vice president than they did for Bill Clinton’s former first lady.
Bernie Sanders has said he will not drop out of the race if he loses Michigan, but this loss will seriously hobble his chances of leaping over the Biden boomerang. For better or worse, the Democratic establishment seems to have put on their chips on Biden, and his path to the nomination became much clearer on Tuesday night.
Tyler O’Neil is the author of Making Hate Pay: The Corruption of the Southern Poverty Law Center. Follow him on Twitter at @Tyler2ONeil.