Heading into tonight’s primaries, both Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders had a lot at stake for their campaigns. While that could be said for almost any primary state, Michigan is a “blue” state with a lot of delegates and is one of those places that, as a Democrat, you want to win if you eventually become the party’s nominee.
For Clinton, winning Michigan meant that she would score a win in a key non-Southern state with a decent amount of delegates. It would also help solidify her standing as the frontrunner and help her maintain her momentum heading into Florida, Ohio and Illinois – states with a good chunk of delegates.
As for Sanders, his campaign desperately needed a win in a state where minorities make up a good portion of the voters. While he scored three victories over the weekend in Nebraska, Maine and Kansas, those are all states that are mostly white. Thus far, he’s been getting crushed in states with large populations of African American populations. In fact, it happened tonight in Mississippi where he’s probably going to lose by over 65 points.
That being said, Michigan was the state some people felt could be where Sanders changed that pattern. Which is exactly what happened as Bernie Sanders has been declared the winner in Michigan in an incredibly close contest.
For many – including myself – this is a rather big shock based on the polling numbers going into today. The Real Clear Politics polling average had Clinton winning Michigan by 21 points. Meanwhile, Nate Silver of FiveThirtyEight.com had given Clinton a 99 percent chance to take Michigan, predicting a 23 point victory for the former secretary of state.
So, what does this all mean?
Well, as Sanders would say, it’s a “yuge!” win for his campaign. In a political world where optics matter, he desperately needed a big win in a state he wasn’t exactly expected to win. Especially in a state with a more diverse population. Though the unfortunate reality is that, because he lost so big in Mississippi and the race in Michigan was so tight, he still lost ground to Clinton in the delegate count.
Michigan mattered more for the momentum of his campaign than the actual delegates. Especially heading into the March 15th states (Ohio, Florida, Missouri, North Carolina and Illinois), that are extremely crucial for his campaign and could be an ultimate game changer if he pulled off wins in most of them.
For Clinton, this is a big loss. Even though she’ll emerge with more delegates than Sanders this evening, Michigan was clearly a state she wanted to win. Heading into a key stretch of states next week, if she were able to sweep today and the March 15th contests, that would have pretty much sealed the nomination – which is still possible if she wins four of five or even all the states on March 15th. However, with these results from Michigan, states like Missouri and Ohio are definitely in question.
No matter how you want to look at this – Clinton still gained in delegates or Sanders finally got an unexpected victory in a bigger, diverse state – it definitely makes this race a whole lot more interesting.
Well, with tonight in the books, we now look ahead to next week which ultimately may end up being the biggest night of this entire race.