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Mar 8, 2016

Well, for once Michigan seems to have set our presidential primary at the right time, neither too early, nor too late. Today, we could have a decisive effect on both parties’ races.

When my sweetheart and I got home last night, we each had a robocall on our land lines. Hers was from Brian Calley urging a vote for John Kasich; mine from Mitt Romney urging one for Marco Rubio.

This was interesting, since mine is not a neighborhood with a strong tradition of voting in Republican primaries. Republicans, however, are increasingly desperate.

Polls show Donald Trump leading his closest competitor here by a two-to-one margin. Trump’s numbers slipped a bit in the weekend contests. But if he reasserts himself with a big victory here, followed by wins in Ohio and Florida next week, the battle for the Republican nomination may be essentially over.

If I had to bet, given the fact that the establishment Republicans can’t even decide who they want instead, this could be a big night for Trump.

On the Democratic side, this could be a huge night for Hillary Clinton. But the polls are all over the place. Is she twenty points ahead, as some polls have it, or is this race quite close, as a new Michigan State University report showed yesterday?

So far Bernie Sanders has done far better than anyone imagined. This is the first major industrial state primary this year. If he makes the race closer than expected, look for him to hang in there for a long time. I’ll be watching to see if young people turn out for him in large numbers.

Politically, Sanders seems like the polar opposite of Trump, but both appeal to voters who are deeply unhappy. Will more of those be drawn tonight to Donald Trump’s blame-the-immigrants message, or Bernie Sanders’ bashing of Wall Street?

What is curious is how angry so many people seem to be. Unemployment is lower than it was eight years ago. The war in Iraq is over, and the one in Afghanistan pretty low-level. There have been no major terrorist incidents in this country, unless you count the endless mass shootings we are unwilling to do anything to stop. Detroit is in better shape than it has been in many years.

Yet people are deeply unhappy. Something like 60% of the public has a negative view of the leading Democratic candidate for President -- despite her wide experience, and the fact that her husband ran the only administration in modern times that both balanced the budget and kept us out of war.

Millions of Democrats have instead been voting for a cranky old guy who openly calls himself a socialist, and has never run for office as a Democrat.

The Republicans, despite controlling both houses of Congress and most of the nation’s governors, seem about to nominate a reality TV star and real estate mogul who has never run for anything, has given lavishly to Democrats, is preaching something that sometimes sounds dangerously close to fascism, and is so vulgar no satire could do him justice.

Something is indeed happening out there, and I have no idea how this is going to end, Mrs. Jones. I only know that today, we can and should go vote.

Jack Lessenberry is Michigan Radio's political analyst. Views expressed in his essays are his own and do not necessarily reflect those of Michigan Radio, its management or the station licensee, The University of Michigan.