Sanders Stuns, Trump Wins in Michigan

Mar 10, 2016

Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders dished out humble pie to pollsters this week, when he claimed victory in Michigan, after no poll showed him leading, or even closing the gap with former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Polls showed Clinton leading in the state by double digits in the race for the Democratic nomination.

Iowa State University Political Science Professor Jim McCormick says, as in most elections, it boiled down to economics in a state hit hard by the recession, with companies moving overseas and the challenges facing the automotive industry.

"I think it's really this kind of economic message that helps us understand what really happened, and the pollsters really didn't tap into that," says McCormick

Kedron Bardwell, Chair of the Political Science Department at Simpson College, agrees. He says Sanders emphasized trade in campaigning in Michigan, and how recent trade deals haven't been favorable to workers in the upper Midwest. Bardwell says Clinton has been more of a free trade candidate.

"Keep in mind that open primaries, where independents and others can come over and vote in an opposite party primary, are notoriously difficult to predict, and Michigan was an open primary, and I think that helped both Sanders and Trump in Michigan," Bardwell says.

In the Republican race, billionaire Donald Trump was victorious in Michigan, with Texas Senator Senator Ted Cruz edging out Ohio Governor John Kasich. Trump captured 36.5% of the vote, Cruz 24.9% and Kasich 24.3%. Rubio finished a distant and disappointing third at 9.3% of the vote.

Trump's victory came in spite of strong attacks from the GOP establishment, including 2012 Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney, who publicly discouraged voters from voting for Trump and made calls on behalf of other candidates. Bardwell says some of the attacks actually play to Trump's message.

"When someone like Mitt Romney comes up it really begs for Trump to say, well don't listen to Mitt Romney he's a loser," he says.  "He's the one that we went with last time and that didn't work out."

McCormick agrees, calling Trump a "Teflon" candidate.

"If you look at poll after poll, his supporters made up their mind early and are unlikely to change," he says.

McCormick says an anti-Trump message delivered by anyone in the so-called establishment doesn't seem likely to dissuade any of his supporters.

In this edition of River to River, host Ben Kieffer talks with McCormick and Bardwell about the ongoing primary election and how each side is courting various groups of voters. They also take calls from listeners.