Michigan helped push former Vice President Joe Biden closer to the Democratic nomination Tuesday with a decisive win over Senator Bernie Sanders. For Sanders, this was a stark and bitter change from four years ago, when Michigan resurrected his faltering campaign for president.
In 2016, Bernie Sanders connected with Michigan Democrats looking to push their party to the left. Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton narrowly lost the Michigan primary to Sanders, but went on to win the Democratic nomination. And then she lost Michigan – again by a narrow margin – to Donald Trump in November.
History did not repeat itself. At least not in the primary. Former Vice President Joe Biden won the state in a blowout. His early lead in voter-rich metro Detroit was so big, so early, that polls were closed for barely an hour before news organizations called it for Biden.
Former Governor Jim Blanchard says Democrats are focused this year on who’s most electable, and, to him, at least, that’s a centrist Democrat who can also appeal to independents and even some Republicans.
"They will not vote for Bernie Sanders," Blanchard said. "They’re not happy with Trump, and so the independents, moderate Republicans, and most Democrats will vote for Joe Biden, and we will carry Michigan.”
But Democratic Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib says, despite Biden’s mounting victories and the convention delegates that go with them, Sanders should hang in, at least through the next debate and the next round of primaries.
"It’s very inspiring and so motivating that you have someone who is really speaking about every single issue that a lot of us have been seeing not move in this country, and he’s saying that there’s a pathway and there’s a way to do it. And that’s through our people movement that he’s been pushing forward all over the country,” Tlaib said.
But Tlaib says she will support the Democratic nominee, regardless of who that is, because she wants President Trump gone.
Trump faced token resistance on the Michigan ballot. It was no surprise that he easily won with more than 90 percent of the vote.
Turnout was big – closer to what would be expected in a general election than in a primary, said Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson. And there were some new twists. There’s a state law that now makes it easier for voters to cast absentee ballots. In fact, Benson says twice as many absentee ballots were requested this year than in the 2016 primary.
She says the system appears to have survived its first real-life stress test.
“So we’re saying this with the caution that where there were successes today, we’re really happy about that, but this is also about informing our preparation for November, and that’s where a lot of my focus is going to be now moving forward,” Benson said.
As are the campaigns with the primary season drawing to a close and Democrats and Republicans focus on how to win Michigan. Trump won by just a fraction of a percentage point in 2016.