Wednesday, March 9, 2016
What do I know that the pundits don't regarding why Bernie Sanders beat out Hillary Clinton in Michigan by one point? Quite a bit, as it turns out, because unlike them, I'm actually paying attention to the local newspapers in Flint and Detroit.
First, let me recap what a huge upset this was. Polls going into this gave Hillary a more than 20 point lead going into the primary as recently as the day before. That should have translated to a huge win for Hillary, and a coast to the nomination afterward. But that didn't happen. What sort of shenanigans could have happened to cause such a huge swing in less than 24 hours?
I don't think much happened in the way of shenanigans. I also don't think only one thing caused such a big change in expectations vs. outcome. Instead, a matrix of factors weighed in all at once. Let me break down what those were.
This, more than anything else, could skew the pre-election polls. Typically, pollsters work with an expectation of likely voters, and turnout for primaries is typically much lower than for a general election. But this primary shattered records and exceeded all expectations. The disaster in Flint has pissed off Michigan voters, and they mean business against anyone seen as establishment! They came out to support the anti-establishment candidate in droves! Pollsters never saw it coming.
2.) Hillary's debate points didn't hit the way pundits thought.
Last Sunday, at the Democratic debate in Flint, when Bernie Sanders attacked Hillary for supporting trade agreements such as NAFTA and the TPP, Hillary had a ready response, pointing out how Bernie had voted against the General Motors bailout. She, and all the pundits, saw that as a tete-a-tete, and called it a wash. Clearly, voters disagreed, perhaps on the rationale that GM wouldn't have needed bailing out if it weren't for NAFTA in the first place.
3.) The Bloomberg Factor.
There was only one significant news story involving the election other than Sunday's debate, and that was the announcement by Michael Bloomberg that he would not run as a third party candidate. The Bloomberg factor (as I called it in this blog), threatened to act as a spoiler if Bernie Sanders was the candidate, thus creating an avenue for Donald Trump to win the presidency with less than a majority. A respectable percentage of Hillary's supporters undoubtedly backed her because they wanted to prevent exactly that sort of thing from happening. But with Bloomberg ruling himself out, many Michigan voters must have decided that it was "safe" to support Bernie Sanders now. And did so!
4.) Late-breaking deciders.
There were a lot of undecided voters hovering in the middle. Pollsters must have thought that they would split down the middle, just as they have in every other Midwestern state which has voted so far. They didn't. They went almost universally for Sanders.
5.) Problems at the polls.
Hillary may have a legitimate gripe when it comes to the polling stations. News stories broke out during the night of polling stations running out of ballots because turnout was so high, and some voters being improperly turned away. Now, Detroit news sources have verified and legitimized the stories, so that they cannot be denied as coming from tabloid sources. You can read about it yourself in the Detroit News here. Certainly, many voters had to wait in long lines before they could vote, and large numbers of them got mad and left. How many votes Hillary lost this way is impossible to quantify, but this happened mostly in big urban areas which favored Hillary. She could argue that this amounted to the barely 1% difference that Sanders won by. This is a huge problem for Bernie, because it de-legitimizes his surprise win.
So, all five of these happened all at once, and the result was a huge last-minute swing for Bernie Sanders, and the most embarrassing failure of pre-polling in living memory. But does that give Bernie a win for the day? As all the other news pundits have already recognized, the answer is no.
Bernie lost Mississippi that same night. Not only did he lose it, he lost it BIG. It was a bloodbath! Not even close. 83% to 16%. Hillary takes nearly all that state's delegates. Meanwhile, Bernie's surprise win, while eye-catching, merely splits the delegate vote nearly down the middle. Bernie gets 7 more delegates that Hillary for winning Michigan. But he looses a difference of 25 delegates to Hillary because she beat him so soundly in Mississippi. That gives a net gain to Hillary of 18 delegates, and so Bernie falls behind with his Michigan victory instead of catching up.
It is the very definition of Pyrrhic victory.
These close victories aren't enough for Bernie. He has to not only win a big state like Michigan, he has to win a big state BIG!
And if he doesn't, then this is just going to end up being one long, drawn out primary battle that serves no purpose except to drain financial resources which could better be spent fighting Donald Trump. I, of course, argue that the Democratic party ought not emerge from the primaries bruised and battered.
But, of course, with Bloomberg out, the prospect of a Sanders comeback seems like it might not be so much of a disaster.