Bernie Sanders’s dramatic upset win over Hillary Clinton in the Michigan Democratic primary was driven in part by voters who feel seriously Bernt by the economy. As Philip Bump writes, exit polls showed Democratic voters were deeply concerned about the economy and trade policies killing American jobs. Sanders won big among those voters, and also among non-college whites, showing potential Clinton vulnerabilities that could resonate in contests to come, particularly in Rust Belt states like Ohio and Pennsylvania.

Clinton finished the night with more delegates than Sanders did, because delegates are awarded proportionately, and he only beat her by  50-48 in Michigan, while Clinton crushed Sanders in Mississippi. Given her current delegate lead, last night’s outcome probably won’t pose a serious obstacle to winning the nomination.

However, it means this battle will continue. And the outcome may reorient Clinton’s focus on to the economy in ways that appeal to Rust Belt Democratic voters — such as working class whites and independents (in the open Michigan primary they also voted for Sanders). And that could have a salutary long term effect: It could set her up for a general election battle with Trump for the industrial Midwest.

One person who knows as much as anyone about these voters is veteran Dem pollster Stan Greenberg, who identified the “Reagan Democrat” phenomenon in none other than Macomb County, Michigan, in the mid-1980s.

“Michigan will end up making her a stronger candidate, both in the primary and the general election,” Greenberg told me this morning. “It will lead her to be focused more on change and the economy.”

Greenberg regularly conducts research into working class and economically insecure Rust Belt voters. “It’s clear that these voters are very anxious, very uncertain about the country’s future, very focused on the economy, and want change,” Greenberg says, adding that Sanders is succeeding to the degree he is because he is running both on “change and the economy” and on “trying to crash the corruption of money in politics.”

Clinton racked up big victories in a string of diverse southern states by emphasizing that she would build on the Obama agenda, making her, in effect, the continuity candidate, and by talking about her ability to “break down barriers.” Greenberg noted that Clinton had given a good speech about jobs and our economic future in Michigan last week, and predicted that going forward, the arguments in it “will become more central.”

What’s important here, Greenberg said, is that this focus will enable Clinton to better bring the party together as the nominee (bringing in Sanders voters worried about the economy) and prepare her to face Trump, should he win the GOP nomination. Clinton advisers reportedly believe that if Trump (who also bashes free trade deals) poses a threat anywhere, it’s among white working class voters in the Rust Belt. Trump’s big victory in Michigan last night underscored his potential appeal there.

“This will enable her to unite the party, and compete for working class voters in the general against Trump,” Greenberg concluded. “She’s going to win. She’ll be stronger when she wins in the right way.”


* TRUMP SHOWS STRENGTH IN RUST BELT: Donald Trump won decisively in Michigan, Mississippi, and Hawaii last night. Here’s the Post’s write-up on the meaning of the Michigan win:

For Trump, Michigan represented the first test of his electoral strength in the Rust Belt. His populist pitches on trade, economic development and immigration resonated deeply with the working-class voters who flocked to the polls in huge numbers. Michigan is the kind of Democratic-leaning state — Pennsylvania is another — that Trump and his advisers have argued he could make competitive in a general election.

* TRUMP TIGHTENS GRIP ON NOMINATION: The NBC News First Read crew runs the current delegate count:

  • Trump 456 (44% of all delegates awarded)
  • Cruz 363 (35%)
  • Rubio 153 (15%)
  • Kasich 54 (5%)

If Trump wins Ohio and Florida, he needs to win 52 percent of the remaining delegates to clinch the nomination.

* A TERRIBLE NIGHT FOR RUBIO: Nate Cohn sums up last night’s results:

His support seemed to collapse ahead of the contests on Saturday, and Tuesday’s races confirmed it. Mr. Rubio won just 5 percent of the vote in Mississippi and 9 percent in Michigan — his two worst showings in a primary this cycle….The collapse of Mr. Rubio makes it even harder to imagine that he’ll manage to squeak out a win in his home state, Florida, where polls have consistently shown Mr. Trump with a lead.

Rubio has one more chance to turn things around — tomorrow night’s debate. But, given that Rubio has already thrown a lot of brutal attacks at Trump, to little avail, it’s hard to imagine what might work.

Suddenly reduced to a single-state strategy, Rubio’s team says he will campaign in Florida and nowhere else for the next week, even as four other states also prepare to host primary elections Tuesday. At the same time, his allies are pelting Trump with an avalanche of negative ads on Florida TV that reinforce the same message Rubio and his army of volunteers offer to anyone who will listen: Trump can’t be trusted.

The idea that Rubio has been reduced to a “single state strategy” becomes worse when you remember that he is fighting frantically to pull out a must win in his home state.

* TRUMP LEADS IN FLORIDA, OHIO: New CNN polls find that Donald Trump is leading Marco Rubio by 16 points in his home state of Florida: Trump has 40 percent, Rubio has 24 percent, Ted Cruz has 19 percent, and Kasich has five percent. In Ohio, Trump leads John Kasich in his home state by 41-35, with Cruz at 15 percent and Rubio at seven percent.

If these are matched by Rubio’s internal polling, when taken with last night’s debacle, does he really stay in until March 15th? Also, if Trump wins both winner-take-all states, he may really be on track to winning an outright majority of the delegates and taking the nomination.

* HILLARY LEADS IN FLORIDA, OHIO: The new CNN polls find Clinton leading Sanders in Ohio by 63-33, and by 61-34 in Florida. Meanwhile, new Quinnipiac polls find that Clinton leads Sanders by 62-32 among Florida likely Democratic primary voters, and by 52-43 among Ohio Dems.

If those toplines are right, Clinton should do very well on March 15th. But the fact that Ohio is in single digits in one of these polls — and is in the industrial Midwest, just as Michigan is — may stir talk of a possible big upset there for Sanders.

Clinton is assembling a potentially winning coalition of minorities, women, young voters and voters with college degrees. Trump is chosen by barely one-fifth of nonwhite voters — about the same percentage as Republican Mitt Romney received when he ran against Obama four years ago.Clinton garners about the same low percentage of white voters as did Obama, but Trump receives a smaller share than Romney did in 2012. Nearly 1 in 10 white voters currently say they favor neither candidate or would not vote in November.

General election polling this far out means little, but if this is right, this suggests Clinton can reassemble the Obama coalition, and that Trump may struggle to run up the enormous margin among white voters he’d need.