Super-ish Tuesday Hot Take & Reax

Thoughts and links from a variety of perspectives about the Tuesday, March 8th Democratic and Republican primaries (Click here to see all of TLP’s 2016 election posts)



State (party) – Candidate vote% (delegates)

Michigan (Dem) – Sanders 49.9% (65), Clinton 48.2% (58)

Michigan (GOP) – Trump 36.5% (25), Cruz 24.9% (17), Kasich 24.3% (17), Rubio 9.3% (0)

Mississippi (Dem) – Clinton 82.6% (29), Sanders 16.5% (4)

Mississippi (GOP) – Trump 47.3% (24), Cruz 36.3% (13), Kasich 8.8% (0), Rubio 5.1% (0)

Idaho (GOP) – Cruz 45.4% (20), Trump 28.1% (12), Rubio 15.9% (0), Kasich 7.4% (0)

Hawaii (GOP) – Trump 42.4% (10), Cruz 32.7% (6), Rubio 13.1% (0), Kasich 10.6% (0)

Thank you Google for the data (and I’m pretty sure they get it from AP).

Hot Take

On the Democratic side of things, Mississippi came in as expected and Michigan was a bit of a surprise. Maybe I am savvier than I give myself credit for, but the idea that this was a huge upset doesn’t make sense to me. Sure, if you are a pollster, this result is way far off from what you predicted. But Sanders’ appeal in Michigan (ironically for one of his few regressive policy positions) combined with the lack of cell phone polling in the state should have given anyone pause while they were looking at polling averages of Clinton being 25 points up. I admit I expected Clinton to win, but I only expected her to win by the same kind of small margin that Sanders won by, so in my mind this was more of a 5-10 point flip than a 25 point flip.

It is fun to imagine if the results were reversed – if Clinton had defeated Sanders by only 1.7% – and wonder how much, if at all, the coverage would be different today. Remember that Clinton eked out a victory in Iowa, a state Sanders should have won handily, and it was interpreted as the coming of the revolution and a “virtual tie.” So now Sanders has won by a slim margin in Michigan, we have no way of knowing if this is an outlier or the beginning of a midwest trend, and as you will see in the reax it is already being hailed as the arrival of the promised revolution. Frankly, if he had lost Michigan by 1.7%, I think the delegates would have been awarded differently, but the coverage would be the same.

I’m going to stay skeptical because: Michigan is an economically and politically anomalous state; there were problems in some voting precincts; Clinton’s turnout may have been depressed by pollsters claiming she would win big for weeks before voting day; pre-election polling didn’t include mobile phone calls, which is not the case in Ohio; the primary was open to independents, which is the case in Ohio but not in Florida or Pennsylvania. It’s also worth pointing out that Clinton won more delegates than Sanders did yesterday, thanks to a big win in Mississippi. All that said, Sanders did win, he did defy the polls, he did so for the first time in a state that has a significant African American population, and he will now enjoy huge amounts of free, favorable corporate media for the next week until more big states vote. (Oh, the irony!)

On the Republican side of things, I have much less to say. Trump is winning, we knew that. Marco Rubio is not really in the race, and to be fair we have known that since New Hampshire. Cruz and Kasich had okay, but not at all surprising, evenings. The ability of the GOP to stop Trump now seems to hinge on Ted Cruz, who is probably the only candidate in the race that would be even worse for the GOP than Donald Trump. Pass me some more popcorn, please.

The Reax

I am going to (try my best to) organize this by party. Democrats first, then Republicans. Some articles will be linked to and excerpted twice as a result.

Starting as I like to do with the Vox roundup by Dylan Matthews, naming two winners (Donald Trump, Bernie Sanders) and three losers (Hillary Clinton, #NeverTrump, Marco Rubio). Regarding Clinton’s defeat in Michigan and what it means for the ongoing contest for the Democratic nomination:

It’s important not to overstate Clinton’s woes. Before tonight, she was nearly 200 pledged delegates ahead of Sanders, with over 58 percent of those allocated to date. She is absolutely demolishing him with superdelegates. She’s winning the popular vote. She’ll net more delegates tonight. She’ll probably win the nomination.

But tonight still suggests it could be a long slog à la 2008, with Clinton playing Obama and Sanders playing ’08 Clinton. The losing candidate is winning just often enough to keep raising money and motivating volunteers. As long as that’s happening, Clinton can’t pivot to the general election, no matter how faint Sanders’s chances eventually get.

This dynamic is exacerbated by the frontloading of Southern, Clinton-friendly primaries, and the backloading of Midwestern and Rust Belt states where — between Michigan, Iowa, Kansas, Nebraska, and Minnesota — Sanders does quite well for himself. Of the March 15 primaries, Florida and North Carolina are probably safe bets for Clinton, but Illinois, Ohio, and Missouri are now up in the air.

Josh Marshall remembers and compares this moment to a similar moment in 2008, when it was Clinton who had seemed to be on her way out of the contest before winning a surprise victory in New Hampshire:

As we know, Clinton won and dramatically shifted the narrative of the campaign. She didn’t win in the end. But she changed what looked to be a quick knock out end to the 2008 campaign into a lengthy, state-by-state slugfest that was about as lengthy and intense as any primary battle we’ve seen in the modern presidential selection process era.

This win does not have those kinds of implications. Sanders would need to follow up with comparable victories in states like Illinois, Ohio or Florida to fundamentally shift the nature of the race. But this does force us to take a good look at the current polls in those states and see if there’s something not unique to Michigan which caused them to be so far off the actual result.

Jim Newell is skeptical of over-interpreting Sanders’ win in Michigan:

Modest victories, no matter the size of the state, are not going to cut it for Sanders. He needs big victories in big states to cut hard into the pledged delegate lead that Clinton has accumulated. Even if he is able to pull off another squeaker in Ohio next week, Clinton is set to swamp him in the demographically and culturally different—and larger—state of Florida. Winning 30 percent of black voters in Michigan is a move in the right direction, but Sanders needs to start winning majorities of all demographic groups in places like California, New York, and Pennsylvania—all while continuing to win the smaller contests in places like Kansas and Oklahoma that he’s had success with.

David A. Graham is somewhere in the middle, seeing the surprise victory as both providing momentum for Sanders and also having some caveats:

It’s too early to tell why expectations were so far off in Michigan, and why the polls missed by so much. As polling places closed, the Clinton campaign hastened to depress expectations. One potential culprit is Clinton’s late attack on Sanders, in which she alleged that he had opposed the rescue of the car industry, because he had voted against bank-bailout bills that included funds for automakers. The attack seemed implausible on its face, much like Clinton’s earlier attempt to convince voters that Sanders wanted to eliminate Obamacare. But that charge might have been as much a symptom of Sanders’s gains—a last-ditch hit launched by the Clinton campaign as her edge dwindled in internal polls—as it was their cause. Sanders also benefited from his appeal to independents, who are permitted to vote in Michigan’s Democratic primary. Some reporters speculatedthat Clinton was also hurt by voters who crossed over to vote Republican, thinking she had the race locked up.

John Nichols thinks the win is a pretty big deal and that it is all about trade policy:

Sanders campaign manager Jeff Weaver said “this issue of trade policy” was the key to the Sanders win in Michigan, noting that Sanders had steadily opposed the agreements while Clinton had often backed them. Weaver argued that the issue “resonated across racial lines,” pointing to exit polls that had Sanders winning more than 30 percent of the African-American vote in Michigan, far more than he received in southern states that voted in late February and early March.

Those same exit polls showed that almost 60 percent of Michigan Democratic primary voters believed that flawed trade policies cost jobs—and they overwhelmingly favored Sanders.

Voter attitudes about trade policy are rooted not in theory but in experience.

The thing about free trade is that it prevents wars. No two countries that have a free trade agreement have ever gone to war. Maybe it is just me, but I prefer having to deal with poverty and unemployment compared to mass bloodshed and total warfare. Way, way more needs to be done to assist unemployed and/or poor folks (regardless of how they ended up that way), but opposition to free trade agreements is tantamount to an endorsement of protectionism, nationalism, and all the conflicts that those things create. That is a very regressive policy position, which Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump have in common. Kinda fucked up, if you ask me. But I digress.

D.D. Guttenplan is even more bullish about Sanders and his Michigan victory:

Because the longer Sanders stays competitive, and the more delegates he brings to the convention, the harder it will be for any nominee—or Democrats further down the ticket—to “pivot” away from pledges to break up big banks, tear up TPP, block pipelines like Keystone, end voter suppression, prosecute both Wall Street fraud and police violence, and prevent corporations from stashing their profits in overseas tax havens. Which, though it may not add up to a political revolution, wouldn’t be a bad start.

Of course achieving any of that will be a lot harder if the Republicans win in November. But what Michigan shows is that Bernie’s voters are every bit as important to a Democratic victory as Hillary’s.

The penultimate sentence in that excerpt is terrifyingly blithe, but whatever.

Brendan Borderlon unsurprisingly interpreted the Michigan and Mississippi results as confirmation of his bias that Hillary Clinton is not electable. After going through the normal “Clinton actually won more delegates last night” caveat, he concludes:

Still, Sanders touted the evening’s results as a victory. “Not only is Michigan the gateway to the rest of the industrial Midwest, the results there show that we are a national campaign,” he said in a statement. “We already have won in the Midwest, New England, and the Great Plains and as more people get to know more about who we are and what our views are we’re going to do very well.”

Though Sanders is still a decided underdog after Tuesday night’s election, the Clinton campaign surely takes his point. Clinton has amassed a comfortable delegate lead by blowing Sanders out in the South and keeping close to him elsewhere. That regional imbalance may not keep her from winning the nomination, but it could spell trouble in a general election where she won’t be able to rely on a southern firewall to cover up her weaknesses in the rest of the country.

So Sanders either won a game-changing upset victory out of nowhere, or he eked out a slim victory in a state that is especially friendly to his message and was inaccurately polled. The truth is probably somewhere in the middle. As for the idea that Clinton’s loss in Michigan suggests she won’t win the state in a general election, well, maybe against another protectionist candidate (e.g. Trump) that is true, but I am pretty sure most Sanders supporters in most states will pull the lever for Hillary if and when the time comes to do so. In the meantime, I agree with Guttenplan that the best part of the Michigan results (and any Sanders victory) is that it will give the Democrats, as a party, more reason to grow a spine and stand up for progressivism in the current and future election cycles. The downside, of course, is the same as the upside – the still-nearly-certain-nominee-to-be has to keep fighting skirmishes on her left flank instead of pivoting to a general election message.

And now for something completely different…

Checking back in with that Vox roundup by Dylan Matthews, I wish I could excerpt his delightful section on #NeverTrump as a loser – really, please, click here and see it for yourself – but instead I will pull a bit from his analysis of Rubio’s no good, very bad evening:

CNN reported Tuesday morning reported that some of Rubio’s advisers were privately telling him to get out of the race before Florida votes and avoid the humiliation of losing his home state. “Most of the senator’s advisers agree he does not have a path to the nomination and some are advising him to get out ahead of the March 15 primary,” reporters Jamie Gangel and Tal Kopan wrote.

The Rubio campaign naturally denied the rumors. But even Rubio seems to have given up at a subconscious level. He told voters tonight, “I believe with all my heart that the winner of the Florida primary next Tuesday will be the nominee of the Republican Party.” Given that the winner is going to be Donald Trump, he’s not wrong.

Burn! And there is more. Isaac Chotiner piles on, arguing Rubio needs to drop out now:

Both Chaucer and Shakespeare wrote of the medlar fruit, which comes, appropriately enough, from the medlar tree. The special distinction of this fruit, and the reason for its appearance in literature, is that it goes rotten before becoming ripe. It is, in short, an excellent metaphor for Marco Rubio.

After his humiliating fourth place finish in Mississippi (with the no-longer-running Ben Carson not far behind him), and another fourth-place finish in Michigan, Rubio’s campaign is essentially finished. This was pretty clear after his dismal showing on Super Tuesday, and it was hammered home by his abysmal debate performance last week. Rubio’s consistently poor showing has been so surprising to so many political pundits (myself included) that his campaign will likely be remembered as one of the most disappointing of the past several election cycles. After Tuesday night’s big losses, Rubio is left with very few options. But he does have one final opportunity to help stop Donald Trump: drop out immediately.


But enough about non-Trump #3, let’s talk about the guy that we’re all really tired of hearing about. Trudy Ring has a recap of the evenings results and festivities, concluding with this tidbit about the night’s big GOP winner:

In his victory speech after being declared the winner in Michigan and Mississippi, Trump focused on trade and said he could get along with two Republican politicians who have criticized him strongly in recent weeks — 2012 presidential candidate Mitt Romney and U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham — although he took some potshots at them first.

The candidate also touted his performance, saying, “There’s only one person who did well tonight: Donald Trump.” Trump, who did unexpectedly well with evangelical Christians, also critiqued his closest rival, Cruz, as “lyin’ Ted,” and called Rubio “little Marco.”

Andrew Prokop points out some of the reasons why Trump can come away from Tuesday’s contests more confident than ever:

The billionaire won two easy victories in Michigan and Mississippi, quieting recent chatter among pundits that his momentum had crested. That also means he beat two of his remaining rivals, Ted Cruz and John Kasich, in their home regions (the South and the Midwest, respectively) — though Cruz did get some good news by winning Idaho.

And as the cherry on top, Marco Rubio’s candidacy suddenly seems to be in free fall — Rubio came in fourth place with just single digit support in both Michigan and Mississippi, and shut out of delegates entirely in both of them.

Combined with Rubio’s disappointing performances on Saturday, this seems to indicate that voters nationwide are writing him off. And this collapse comes at the perfect time for Trump, because one week from today, he will face off with Rubio in the senator’s hugely important winner-take-all home state of Florida.

Caitlin Huey-Burns focuses on Trump’s urging the GOP to get behind him:

Trump’s victories on Tuesday, however, come after party leaders and activists banded together against him, forming the so-called “Never Trump” coalition. Former GOP standard-bearer Mitt Romney urged Republicans to vote against him in the upcoming primaries, and voiced robo-calls for Kasich, Cruz, and Rubio. Anti-Trump super PACs spent roughly $13 million against him, according to one report. And at the GOP debate in Detroit Thursday night, Rubio and Cruz sought to bring Trump down.

Trump saw Tuesday night as a resounding rejection of the effort. Facing such opposition, he urged Republicans to rally around him, making a general election call to arms against Hillary Clinton.

“Let’s unify,” he said. “Let’s come together, folks. I am a unifier.”

Jonathan Bernstein has a sort-of-listicle-ish 5 points about Tuesday’s results, including:

4. What about Ted Cruz? After breaking out ahead of Rubio over the last week, the Texas senator failed tonight to gain ground on Trump. Trump continues to dominate Cruz in what were thought to be the Texan’s strongest states in the South, and now Cruz failed to demonstrate that he could appeal to voters in a big Midwestern industrial state. If Kasich or Rubio do manage to stay in, Cruz may run up against a wall.

Speaking of Ted Cruz, Lauren Fox reports that the universally-despised Senator is totally ignoring the #NeverTrump strategy:

“Given the current delegate selection process, that means that I’d vote for Marco Rubio in Florida and for John Kasich in Ohio, and for Ted Cruz or whoever has the best chance to beating Mr. Trump in a given state,” Romney said.

But instead of heeding that advice, both Rubio and Cruz are locked in caustic competition to prove they each have what it takes to challenge Trump in a one-on-one matchup. Instead of smoothing the path for a Rubio victory in the senator’s home state of Florida, the pro-Cruz super PAC Keep the Promise I, planned to release a barrage of ads both in and out of the state attacking Rubio on everything from sugar subsidies to national security, Politico reported Monday.

On Tuesday, Cruz announced that he would travel to Miami for a rally, a sign he’s not about to follow Romney’s script and cede Florida to Rubio.

This seems like a good time to segue to…

What’s next?

Democrats – There is a debate tonight (Wednesday, March 9th) at 8:30pm hosted by Univision and the Washington Post. The Northern Mariana Islands Democratic Convention is on March 12th and after that it is Super Tuesday II: Revenge of the Midwest on March 15th with Florida, Illinois, Missouri, Ohio, and North Carolina all holding primaries.

Republicans – Their next reality-tv-slugfest “debate” is a CNN/Salem Radio/Washington Times hosted affair, also in Miami. They have the same Super Tuesday II states as Democrats, plus the Republicans in the Northern Mariana Islands vote that day as well.

Click here to see all of TLP’s 2016 election posts.

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