It’s not just that former secretary of state Hillary Clinton lost the Michigan Democratic primary to Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont yesterday, but it’s the way she lost that could give real worry to Clinton’s campaign officials as they plot out the general election.
To be sure, Clinton is likely to be the Democratic presidential nominee this year. While Sanders won Michigan narrowly, she crushed him in Mississippi. By the end of the night she grew her delegate lead to the point where Sanders would have to win every remaining state by double digits.
But as Clinton looks to the general election, her strategists must evaluate why she lost Michigan, a state where she had a 20-point average lead in polling heading into the primary, and why Donald Trump did so well in the state’s Republican contest.
Exit polling in Michigan shows that Sanders built a coalition of young people, liberals, and independents that helped boost him to victory. And, as he said he would need to, he increased his share of support among African-Americans to 30 percent, while winning 6 in 10 white voters. (In Mississippi Clinton won 90 percent of the African-American vote.)
But it was the topic of free trade that propelled Sanders and Trump. More than half the voters in Michigan’s Republican and Democratic primaries believed that trade deals have led to job losses. Those who believed that voted for Sanders and Trump.
When some analysts look at the November electoral map, they assume Trump’s horrible standing with Hispanic voters means Clinton will win swing states like Nevada and Colorado and that even traditionally Republican states like Georgia and Arizona will now be in play. But if trade, and the Clinton’s history supporting these policies, emerges as a bigger issue in the general election, there are implications for what this means in across the industrial Midwest -- not just in swing states like Ohio, but also in Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin.
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