9 March 2016 | 4:36 am
Senator Bernie Sanders scored an upset win in the Michigan Democratic primary, according to the Associated Press, threatening to prolong a Democratic campaign that Hillary Clinton appeared to have all but locked up last week.
While strengthening Mr. Sanders’s hand as the race turns to a series of large states next week, his victory in Michigan did not drastically alter Mrs. Clinton’s delegate lead, as she won overwhelmingly in Mississippi, crushing Mr. Sanders among African-American voters.
On the Republican side, Donald J. Trump easily dispatched his rivals in Michigan and Mississippi, regaining momentum in the face of intensifying resistance to his campaign among party leaders.
After losing to Senator Ted Cruz on Saturday in Kansas and Maine, Mr. Trump needed one of his biggest performances of the campaign to tamp down doubts about his popularity after a week of gaffes, missteps and questions about the strength of his political organization.
And he got one, demonstrating his appeal with working-class white voters in Michigan, an important battleground state, while beating back especially stiff challenges from Gov. John Kasich of Ohio there and from Mr. Cruz in Mississippi.
Mr. Trump, plugging several of his business interests in a victory speech that seemed straight out of QVC, crowed about having prevailed despite “$38 million worth of horrible lies” in advertising and other attacks by his rivals.
“There’s only one person who did well tonight: Donald Trump,” he said in Jupiter, Fla., at one of his golf resorts. He also mocked Mr. Cruz. “He’s always saying, ‘I’m the only one that can beat Trump,’ ” Mr. Trump said, imitating his rival, but adding: “He rarely beats me.”
Mrs. Clinton, addressing supporters in Cleveland, did not mention the Mississippi or Michigan results, instead alluding to the vitriol in the Republican field. “As the rhetoric keeps sinking lower, the stakes in this election keep rising higher,” she said. Running for president, she said, “shouldn’t be about delivering insults; it should be about delivering results.”
But it was almost as if her speech did not happen: Not one of the major cable news networks carried her remarks, which came as Mr. Trump was speaking.
The emphatic victories by Mr. Trump were a sharp turnabout from his difficult weekend and suggested that his stumbles in recent days had not done substantial damage to his campaign. He continued his dominance among low-income voters in Michigan and Mississippi but, in a foreboding sign for Mr. Cruz, also narrowly won among white evangelicals in both states.
If Tuesday offered a reminder of Mr. Trump’s enduring appeal, it was nothing short of devastating for Senator Marco Rubio of Florida. After slipping to third or fourth place in the states that voted Saturday, Mr. Rubio collapsed on Tuesday, finishing well behind his three rivals in Michigan and Mississippi and calling into question how much longer he will be able to stay in the race.
Despite her victory over Mr. Sanders in Mississippi, the latest in a string across the South fueled by overwhelming black support, Mrs. Clinton was more concerned about the outcome in Michigan and denying the Vermont senator any momentum coming out of the primary there. Mr. Sanders, who won white voters in Michigan and is targeting them in coming Rust Belt primaries, has been sharply attacking Mrs. Clinton over her past support for free trade agreements, while she has aggressively questioned his support for the 2009 bailout of the auto industry.
Results indicated that Mrs. Clinton was the overwhelming favorite of African-Americans in Michigan, who were expected to make up around 20 percent of the Democratic electorate.
For Mr. Sanders, Michigan represented a potential turning point in his campaign. He badly needed a victory to provide much-needed political momentum heading into Ohio and Illinois next week, and to demonstrate that he is still viable even though he has fallen far behind Mrs. Clinton in the race to amass the 2,323 delegates needed to win the Democratic nomination.
But Mr. Sanders has yet to show that he can prevail in several of the populous, racially diverse swing states that the Democratic nominee will seek to win in November, while Mrs. Clinton has done so in states like Nevada and Virginia. For their part, Clinton advisers predicted that they would net more delegates from Tuesday’s primaries than Mr. Sanders because of Mrs. Clinton’s landslide victories in predominantly black parts of Mississippi.
The results in Michigan were expected to offer clues to Mr. Trump’s fortunes in Ohio and Florida, which could energize or end the campaigns of Mr. Kasich and Mr. Rubio. Mr. Trump, the Republican front-runner, was aiming not only for victory in Michigan, but also for a muddled outcome for his three rivals, so that none could convincingly claim to be the strongest alternative to him.
Mr. Trump’s clear victory in Mississippi, one of four states voting Tuesday, showed that he remains the Republican favorite for the nomination and enjoys a fiercely loyal core of support. But the Republican opposition to Mr. Trump’s candidacy is just as sturdy, and there are signs that it is widening.
If the anti-Trump forces are to break his grip on the party, their last chance may be next week, when Ohio and Florida vote and Mr. Kasich and Mr. Rubio put their candidacies on the line in their home states. If Mr. Trump does not win those two states, it will be difficult for him, or any other candidate, to capture the nomination before Republicans gather for their convention in Cleveland this July.
The results on Tuesday, including Republicans contests in Idaho and Hawaii, were bound to offer important insights about just how vulnerable Mr. Trump now is — and whether a Republican Party desperate to stop him can push the race to the floor of the party’s convention this summer.
Even before the votes were counted, there were new signs that resistance to Mr. Trump’s candidacy within his own party was growing. The number of Republicans viewing him unfavorably spiked to 46 percent in a Washington Post-ABC poll released Tuesday, the highest figure recorded in that survey since Mr. Trump entered the race last year.
He has been hurt by what has effectively been the first sustained assault from his rivals and third-party groups about his business dealings as well as by self-inflicted wounds — notably his initial hesitation to disavow the support of a white supremacist figure, David Duke, and his boasting about his sexual endowment at last week’s debate.
After appearing to be running away with the race following three consecutive wins last month, Mr. Trump has also made the nomination fight more competitive by refusing to build the sort of sophisticated organization that would reflect the seriousness of his candidacy.
He was able to overcome his reliance on a skeletal campaign when the race was largely sequenced one state at a time and he could rely on the momentum gained from each new victory. But now that the contests are coming in weekly clusters, his lack of infrastructure is haunting him: He lost two of the three states holding organization-intensive caucuses last Saturday.
Perhaps just as consequential, Mr. Trump has been hurt by the decline of the candidate whom he attacked with such relish in recent weeks: Mr. Rubio — or, as Mr. Trump has called him, “Little Marco.”
With Mr. Rubio reaching a high-water mark of just 17 percent in the four states that voted on Saturday, his voters apparently moved to Mr. Cruz. The Texas senator won two caucuses, in Kansas and Maine, and narrowly lost to Mr. Trump in Kentucky and Louisiana, the sort of conservative-leaning Southern states that Mr. Trump dominated just four days earlier on Super Tuesday.
“There’s only one person who did well tonight,” Donald J. Trump said on a night with four Republican contests.
By REUTERS on Publish Date March 8, 2016.
Photo by Todd Heisler/The New York Times.
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Mr. Trump, however, was competing on more favorable terms this week. Three of four states voting Tuesday held primaries, rather than caucuses, and the two biggest delegate prizes, Michigan and Mississippi, had open voting, meaning that the Republican contest was not limited only to Republicans.
But Mr. Trump was facing late threats in both Michigan and Mississippi. Mr. Kasich spent much of the last month with Michigan all to himself, as his rivals campaigned elsewhere. And Mr. Rubio’s fade benefited Mr. Kasich in Michigan, as mainstream Republicans there appeared to drift toward the Ohio governor.
There was less campaigning in Mississippi, but Mr. Cruz made a late push there by holding a rally in the Jackson area, and he picked up the endorsement of the state’s governor, Phil Bryant.
Democratic delegates are awarded proportionally based on the candidates’ vote shares, and Democratic-leaning states and areas — like predominantly black cities and towns — tend to have the most delegates up for grabs. Advisers to both Mrs. Clinton and Mr. Sanders expected a fairly even split of delegates in Michigan but a big Clinton haul in Mississippi, which would expand the significant lead that Mrs. Clinton already had over Mr. Sanders.
Heading into Tuesday’s contests, Mrs. Clinton had 672 pledged delegates (the result of primary and caucus wins) to Mr. Sanders’s 477. In addition, she has support from 458 superdelegates — party leaders and elected officials who count toward the nomination — to 22 for Mr. Sanders. Superdelegates can switch allegiance at any time.
Mr. Sanders’s advisers said that a strong performance in Michigan would augur well for him in Ohio and Illinois, given that the three states have similar Democratic electorates and that Mr. Sanders plans to continue criticizing Mrs. Clinton over free trade. But they acknowledged that even if he were to win Michigan, he was not likely to gain much ground on Mrs. Clinton in the race for delegates.
In addition to Ohio and Illinois, Mr. Sanders also plans to compete hard in next Tuesday’s nominating contest in Missouri, while he has shown less effort in the other two major primaries that day, Florida and North Carolina.
Mrs. Clinton’s advisers said that she could net more delegates than Mr. Sanders next Tuesday if she wins Florida and North Carolina but narrowly loses elsewhere, because her victories in predominantly black and Hispanic areas of the two states would probably yield disproportionately large numbers of delegates.
Campaigning in Detroit on Tuesday morning at Avalon International Breads, Mrs. Clinton appeared upbeat as she shook hands, posed for photographs and asked for votes sounding much like a job applicant. “I hope you’ll vote to hire me,” she told one voter. She stopped by Astro Coffee for an espresso and more handshaking before heading to Cleveland for an election-night party.
Regardless of who came out on top in the four states casting Republican ballots Tuesday, the delegates up for grabs were to be divided as many as four ways — one of the factors that is prolonging the race and keeping a delegate majority out of reach.
The Republicans can start holding winner-take-all contests next week. And whether Mr. Trump can seize the combined 165 delegates up for grabs in Ohio and Florida next Tuesday will go a long way toward determining whether he can the regain the momentum to clinch the nomination before the convention in July.
At a minimum, it may show whether “this ride has got a few more tricks and turns,” as Mr. Rubio put it Tuesday while campaigning in Florida, his must-win home state.
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