TONIGHT: DEMOCRATS DUEL IN MIAMI. Fresh off yesterday's stunning Michigan win, Bernie Sanders will face off with Hillary Clinton tonight at the Washington Post-Univision Democratic debate, starting at 9 p.m. ET. There are 246 delegates at stake in Florida, which votes next Tuesday -- a day the Clinton campaign has pointed to as a potential tipping point, after which her delegate lead will, in their words, "essentially be insurmountable."
Pre-debate coverage begins at 8:45 p.m. ET on The Washington Post's desktop and mobile sites, as well as its app for Apple TV. The Washington Post will stream the debate on its website and on the Washington Post app for Apple TV. CNN will air the debate on cable in English and stream it on its website and mobile app, and Univision will carry it in Spanish. During breaks in the debate, the Post livestream will feature discussions with anchors and guests in Washington and inside the debate hall. On Facebook, the Post will share additional behind-the-scenes videos, including via Facebook Live.
DEBATE PREP: ABOUT LAST NIGHT... Hillary Clinton took home more delegates out of the primaries in Michigan and Mississippi last night. But by winning Michigan, Bernie Sanders got something nearly as important -- a massively important symbolic victory that will likely reenergize his campaign and extend the Democratic presidential race for weeks, if not months, notes Chris Cillizza.
Given Sanders’s remarkable comeback in Michigan — most polling had him losing by more than 20 points — there are a handful of large, industrial states, many clumped in the Midwest, where he now has to be considered viable, assuming he continues to ride the trade message that catapulted him to the top in the Wolverine State.
Ohio — and its haul of 66 delegates — looks good for Clinton as of this morning with a CNN poll showing her leading by 30 points. But given Sanders’s surge in the final days before Michigan — not to mention the positive press he’ll get in Ohio and everywhere else from his Michigan win — it’s hard to totally write off his chances. Same goes for Illinois, which, like Ohio, votes on March 15. And Wisconsin on April 5. And Pennsylvania on April 26.
(Here's how Bernie Sanders won Michigan):
Putting aside the more technical aspects of what Sanders’s victory means, there’s also this: Winning Michigan makes it that much harder for the Clinton people to dismiss him as either a regional candidate or someone who can win only small, not very Democratic states that hold caucuses.
Sanders’s marquee victory before Tuesday night was in the New Hampshire primary Feb. 9. It was dismissed, effectively so, by the Clinton folks as simply a state choosing a hometown (or close enough) hero. Wins in Kansas and Nebraska were written off as largely meaningless amid Clinton’s continued delegate dominance. Sanders’s victories in Colorado and Minnesota — two larger states — were played down because they were caucuses, perceived as more favorable to the liberal Sanders than primaries.
But Michigan is a state where no one — not even Clintonworld — can take away what Sanders accomplished. This is a big, Midwestern state that is far more diverse than Iowa or New Hampshire. Clinton tried very hard to win. She didn't. Case closed.
Although Sanders’s win virtually ensures that this race goes through April — Pennsylvania’s primary isn’t until the end of that month — and maybe all the way through when California votes June 7, it still doesn’t change the underlying delegate math of the contest. And, there, Clinton retains a considerable edge.
Sanders’s narrow Michigan win netted him only seven more delegates than Clinton, while her massive victory in Mississippi gave her a 25 delegate edge. The night netted out then +18 for Clinton. Her overall delegate lead — when the unelected and unpledged superdelegates are added into the mix — stands at 650, and she is now more than halfway to the 2,383 delegates she needs to formally secure the nomination.
So Clinton remains favored to be the nominee. But the race continues — and will continue for quite some time.
If Clinton holds on and wins the Democratic nomination, she's got some good news waiting for her on the other side, according to the new Washington Post-ABC poll testing out a hypothetical general election matchup. In the survey, she's getting the band back together: the Obama coalition of women, minorities, young voters and the college-educated holds, while a Trump-helmed GOP coalition doesn't fare as well. That showing could improve after the primary season is past, and usually does -- but as of right now, Clinton is commanding more hypothetical loyalty from her party than Trump is from his.
Another bit of good news for Democrats: a majority of Americans in the Washington Post-ABC poll now approve of President Obama's performance. His overall approval rating stands at 51 percent in the new poll, while his disapproval rating is 43 percent.
TRAIL MIX: The usual maps that show states won don't work so well in showing you who's really ahead. Here's a better map option.
--Obviously, polling in Michigan was off. Way off. That happens more than people recognize.
--Still: The Clinton campaign seemed to telegraph the Michigan loss beforehand (They were either engaging in some epic expectations-setting, or they saw the state slipping away.)
ABOUT LAST NIGHT...
MARCO RUBIO'S TERRIBLE, HORRIBLE, NO GOOD, VERY BAD NIGHT: It’s hard to exaggerate what a debacle Tuesday night was for the senator from Florida, says Philip Bump. It was fine to come in third in Iowa’s caucuses when he saw a late surge and was running against 11 other people. It is not fine to come in third in Idaho in a field of four candidates. It is not fine to win 16 percent of the vote there, when you need 20 percent to qualify for any delegates. It is not fine at all to come in fourth — dead last in the current field — in both Mississippi and Michigan, qualifying for delegates in neither.
He's been forced to shoot down rumors he might exit the race even before his home state weighs in next week. "Let me tell you something: I will be on that ballot on Tuesday. I will campaign as long and as hard as it takes," he insisted today.
Rubio has to win Florida, unquestionably, to be able to stay in the race. But even if Rubio does win Florida, it’s not clear that he has any path to the nomination. He will have beaten the odds, yes, but he’s supposed to win Florida. It’s his home state! Cruz seemed like he was in a tough fight in his home state of Texas and then won easily — but it didn’t keep Trump from completing his sweep of the South. If Florida were added to Rubio’s column right now, he’d have 250 delegates — more than 100 behind Cruz and 200 behind Trump as of this moment.
"At this point, I think both Marco Rubio and John Kasich are gonna have to look at the race and assess their prospects," Ted Cruz said today. "It is a simple question of math."
(In other words: It's not over. But it might be over.)
GOP pundit Kubler-Ross scale status: Stage 4
Rubio is running as the future of the Republican Party when, in fact, the Republican Party may have no future.— John Podhoretz (@jpodhoretz) March 9, 2016
(Inbox: A Rubio fundraising appeal)
Approaching acceptance! pic.twitter.com/UCcAtVrYad— Josh Marshall (@joshtpm) March 9, 2016
DONALD TRUMP'S MARCH HAS DEFINITELY COME IN LIKE A LION: Last night, Trump extended a sort of olive branch to some of his GOP critics. (VIDEO)
He could use a break in the action: He's now getting hit from all sides.
We are now seeing the biggest engagement yet by anti-Trump groups in the 2016 race, reports Matea Gold. Donors who last year assumed Trump's candidacy would eventually collapse are now pumping millions into groups running attacks ads. To date, anti-Trump groups have reported spending $27.5 million hitting him on TV, online and in mailers — more than 10 percent of the $263 million that super PAC and other independent groups have poured into the White House race.
The lion's share of anti-Trump ads have rained down in the first eight days of March: $11.4 million in all. The question now is, is the campaign intensifying too late to prevent him from securing the GOP nomination?
One consolation for Trump opponents disheartened by his wins Tuesday: there was little effort mustered against him by independent groups in Michigan, where they spent just $42.86, or Mississippi, where they only put in $9,821.95.
The ultimate test of the #StopTrump effort will come Tuesday in Florida, which has seen nearly $12 million worth of attacks against the billionaire developer. But will it matter?
Phony Club For Growth tried to shake me down for one million dollars, & is now putting out nasty negative ads on me. They are total losers!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) March 9, 2016
A new anti-Trump spot today from one of the people actually running against him draws on Cruz's Obamacare and Planned Parenthood trail attacks. It's airing in North Carolina. (VIDEO)
SPEAKING OF TRUMP ATTACKS... He isn't necessarily the target of every negative spot he's featured in. Here's the attack ad Senate Democrats have been looking forward to running: It lumps together Donald Trump and the Supreme Court nomination battle, and uses that combination to hit a swing state Republican (in this case, Sen. Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire) (VIDEO)
Rubio tells @megynkelly he regrets going dirty on Trump: "My kids were embarrassed by it. My wife didn't like it."— David Catanese (@davecatanese) March 9, 2016
In a Washington Post op-ed today, Ben Carson had some thoughts on how down-ticket Republicans could handle a Trump nomination. The options:
Dump Trump: While attractive for several reasons — significant portions of the electorate say they would never vote for him — this strategy has its downsides. For one, many voters will be turning out for the first time because of Trump. If you are a candidate in a heavily Democratic district or need a boost to tip the scales in your favor, it may not make political sense to shun the presidential nominee.
Lone wolf: What does Sen. Rob Portman (Ohio) do in his critical state? ... It may make sense for Portman to walk a delicate line and go his own way in the Buckeye State, without truly repudiating or embracing Trump. Will he be able to? You can bet Democrats will try to tie the Trump millstone around Portman’s neck. In today’s atmosphere of instant coverage and viral news, I’m not sure Republican candidates can avoid taking a stand on Trump.
Cuddle Trump: I can think of dozens of Republican House (and a few Senate) candidates who relish the idea of Trump campaigning in their districts or states. Think about it: Trump is the personification of vented frustration. ...Where this gets tricky, however, is on matters of public policy. ... They can’t signal gray areas to voters who want absolutes. This will be especially tough for congressmen who won last cycle with less than a five-point margin.
The Prius approach: Some candidates will try a hybrid campaign, picking the “good” that aligning with Trump brings while striking formal, broader contrasts with the nominee beyond merely trashing his goofy mannerisms. I see this avenue having appeal in the Northeast, with its more liberal Republican base, as well as in more populist states such as Minnesota.
The Ryan test: Taking a cue from House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (Wis.), [many candidates] will not condone and, instead, will aggressively attack any Trump policy that directly harms the Republican brand. ...But this approach, too, brings pitfalls. If mishandled, voters could come to see such candidates as part of the same old country club in need of toppling.
#REALTALK, via The Fix: "Donald Trump is not winning because of independent voters flooding into GOP contests. He is not winning because of Democrats crossing over to sabotage the Republican primary. He is winning the Republican presidential race because he is winning Republican votes -- not a majority of them, but more of them than any other GOP candidate." (More here.)
MORE TRAIL MIX: Jeb Bush is going to meet with every remaining GOP contender, except Donald Trump.
--Carly Fiorina has endorsed Ted Cruz.
--Donald Trump has been endorsed by a pastor who encourages Sandy Hook hoax questions.
--Callum Borchers breaks down last night's dustup featuring a Breitbart News reporter and Donald Trump's campaign manager.
--Could the GOP really break in two? If history's any guide: Maybe.
THE VIEW FROM THE FIELD:
Offbrand Bernie Sanders impersonator crashes Kasich rally pic.twitter.com/r9sdQaGbcv— daveweigel (@daveweigel) March 9, 2016
Kasichmentum in the NW suburbs of Chicago pic.twitter.com/NugBprYGoq— daveweigel (@daveweigel) March 9, 2016
REPORTERS HEAR THINGS:
OH at Kasich rally: "Why did the Trib endorse Rubio? Why even bother?"— daveweigel (@daveweigel) March 9, 2016
OH at Miami coffee shop, re: Jeb Bush: "He just seems so sad to me."— Rosie Gray (@RosieGray) March 9, 2016
Advance team #protip: When in doubt, book the small venue. Always the small venue.
Rubio stadium event in Hialeah. Stands empty; crowd in one end zone. pic.twitter.com/9zj0xslwSA— Byron York (@ByronYork) March 9, 2016
Jon Voight has endorsed Donald Trump (a man who once said Voight's daughter Angelina Jolie wasn't pretty.)
It's not clear how many votes a nod like Voight's swings; in politics, there are celebrity endorsements, and then...there are celebrity endorsements. (VIDEO)
THE NIGHTLY TRAIL: The Democratic debate, hosted by Univision's Jorge Ramos and The Washington Post's Karen Tumulty.
YOUR DAILY TRAIL PIT STOP: These guys are still viral, so: we give in. (VIDEO)
Donald Trump upstaged by two guys and a potato chippic.twitter.com/vGmpWD2swe— (((Yair Rosenberg))) (@Yair_Rosenberg) March 8, 2016