Post-mortem on the Michigan primary

The calendar matters, the delegate count matters, and the momentum matters.

by John English
by John English

There was a noted lack of decent polling for most of the states in play this week, but Michigan provided a microcosm of information that could serve as a signal for the remainder of this election cycle.

Below are the numbers of the poll averages from two weeks ago, right before voting, and actual voting.

Mich-polls

THE REPUBLICANS

Michigan was a prelude for how the #NeverTrump movement is playing out. Marco Rubio abandoned Michigan a while ago to focus on other states. His inability to make significant gains has hurt him with voters. He went from second to fourth place.

John Kasich, however, has campaigned in Michigan almost as much as he had in New Hampshire. A second-place showing would have been impressive, something to build on, but when he still comes in third, then doesn’t that just scream that his only use is to lock up Ohio’s 66 electoral votes? He’s not going to play in Arizona or Utah or Wisconsin.

Marco Rubio, meanwhile, has his campaign fighting anonymous sources daily who insist they’re with his campaign and that he’s going to drop out. I’ll believe it when it happens; I say unless something spectacular happens at tonight’s debate, he stays in until Florida. The most recent Suffolk and WaPo polls have him behind by single digits, so it’s likely March 15 could end with Trump taking Florida. If that happens, I see him dropping out the next day.

Republicans, more and more, are moving to the Cruz camp. (Sen. Mike Lee’s endorsement will help.) The GOP in general have managed to still deny Trump a 50% victory anywhere. Adding up the actual votes, Trump is only at 35%. So preventing Trump from getting to his magical 1237 delegates is possible, but it’s highly, highly unlikely anyone will have more at the convention.

THE DEMOCRATS

Bernie Sanders’ victory has to make one reconsider what the polls are telling us on the Democratic side.

He is way behind on the delegate count due to Clinton’s drubbings of him in the deep South. It’s a great disservice to him and to the Democratic party as a whole to announce how many superdelegates that Clinton has secured, because they can change their mind at any moment. If Sanders ends up in June with more pledged delegates than Clinton, the superdelegates will support Sanders. But delegate math is still math. He’d need to win about 60% of the vote from here on out in order to win.

Last night’s debate said a few things. It said that Clinton and Sanders agree that Obama’s been too conservative on immigration issues, that Sanders can bring anything back to the corporate greed of Wall Street billionaires, and that Clinton answers just about everything in lawyer-speak.

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