There’s nothing sweeter for a politician than the kind of victory Sen. Bernie Sanders drank in Tuesday’s Michigan Primary. What flavor of victory is that? The pleasantly tart kind where serious-minded peoples were long assuring their audiences of a Hillary Clinton victory, which the polls said she would win by 10 to 20 points, and that to think otherwise was to engage in goony-eyed, Bernie Bro dreaming.
Clinton had a 21 point lead in MI heading into today: https://t.co/TlgqJ1pZmB— Caitlin Huey-Burns (@CHueyBurnsRCP) March 9, 2016
Where did the Sanders campaign get this idea that he can win Michigan?— Matthew Yglesias (@mattyglesias) March 2, 2016
And then came the reversal so late in the evening that Sanders spoke to the press from a rather rustic-looking Miami hotel lobby rather than his rah-Bernie rally.
Sanders did well in Michigan, even if he was against the auto bailout in 2009 – a point Clinton has hit him on previously. Clinton also exerted a lot of campaign energy worrying about the horrific Flint, Mich., water crisis. She undoubtedly expected to win based on such tender efforts as much as the pundits assumed she would. As consolation prize, Clinton trounced Sanders in Mississippi, as she has done in every Southern state, thanks in great part to the black vote. She won more of the black vote in Michigan as well, but it wasn’t enough to win the whole state.
And again it was the youth vote – 81 percent of Michigan’s under-30s do so love their Uncle Bernie – that propelled Sanders to confused victory.
Headlines declared the less-than 2 percent win for the Vermont senator a “stunning upset” and things like that. Sounds small, but it was mighty. Yet the number of delegates won for Sanders on Tuesday was 69 to Clinton’s 87. She’s still beating him, with 1,201 total delegates, plus a majority of superdelegates who in theory could switch their support to Sanders. You know, like if Ms. Clinton gets hauled off to prison for her email server or something.
Surprised though he was at winning the state, Sanders – and others – now think that his success is just starting, especially since the Southern primaries have passed and been won by Clinton. Sanders could falter in next week’s big deal primary states (Illinois, Florida, Ohio, Missouri and North Carolina). However, everyone was wrong about Michigan, and they were wrong about how much a nation can be captivated by an amateur folk singer’s pronunciation of “huge.” If Sanders has even more oomph than anyone can analyze and chart, he might have a chance at winning – if, that is, the voters really are as wild as they seem this year.
Things were less dramatic for the GOP on Tuesday, in the sense that the Trump experience continues, and neither Mitt Romney nor other establishment fellas can stop it. Trump gobbled up every Republican primary state except for Idaho, which went to Sen. Ted Cruz.
Tuesday’s primaries prove that though the establishment still has killer gams in the form of Hillary Clinton (though not so much with the human stumble known as Sen. Marco Rubio), this whole populist table-flip of 2016 has just begun. Clinton may still get this, but Sanders is closer at her heels than anyone straight-laced and centrist wants to admit. Meanwhile, Trump remains king of maybe not the country, but certainly of giving the GOP a panic attack. The establishment’s ego is to blame for Fuck/It 2016 being the dream ticket, and the its horror and its failure are the only satisfying thing about this race.