On Politics: A Big Day in Michigan

On Politics: A Big Day in Michigan

Good morning and welcome to On Politics, a daily political analysis of the 2020 elections based on reporting by New York Times journalists.

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  • The presidential primary race is a game of dominoes, and they may start falling very quickly in favor of Joe Biden.

  • Six primaries take place across the country tonight, in the first round of voting since Biden’s big victories on Super Tuesday last week. The major contest is in Michigan, where polls suggest Bernie Sanders is in danger of suffering a painful loss. He upset Hillary Clinton in the state four years ago, giving him momentum as the primary moved into the spring.

  • A weak finish this year in a comparable two-person race would show that Sanders has lost ground among certain key groups, particularly white voters with college degrees — and that he has failed to pick up much-needed support among black voters, who are likely to break hard for Biden.

  • Sanders is aiming his pitch squarely at female voters in a way he rarely has before. He released a reproductive health care plan on Saturday, and as the Rev. Jesse Jackson endorsed Sanders on Sunday, he said the senator had pledged to nominate a black woman to the Supreme Court. Sanders has also begun to level attacks against Biden for his past support of the Hyde Amendment, which bars the use of federal money for most abortions, and Biden’s criticism (decades ago) of the Roe v. Wade decision. Sanders tends to perform better with men than women, but his campaign is targeting what it sees as a potential weak spot for Biden, while seeking to appeal to some of Elizabeth Warren’s former supporters, who were overwhelmingly women.

  • The domino effect from Michigan could be huge: There are contests next week in two of its Midwestern neighbors, Illinois and Ohio, as well as in delegate-rich Florida. But Sanders will have a chance to revive himself when he and Biden face off on Sunday in their first one-on-one debate.

  • Another chance: Washington State. It’s the second-most-populous state holding its primary today, and is much more favorable territory for Sanders. He won in a landslide there in 2016, when Washington was still a caucus state (historically a favorable format to Sanders). But the race looks much closer this time. The vote will occur under the pall of the coronavirus, which has killed more than a dozen people in the state. Sanders has not visited the state since last month.

  • The recent surge of good news for Biden has paved the way for a wide lead in national polls. Both CNN and Quinnipiac University released national surveys on Monday showing Sanders trailing by double digits. The Quinnipiac poll, which had the wider margin, put Biden at 54 percent and Sanders at 35 percent. Sanders leads among liberals and young voters, but he picked up hardly any new support among older voters as the field has narrowed. Biden has him beat by more than seven to one among voters 65 and over, according to Quinnipiac.

  • In Michigan too, polls paint a disheartening picture for Sanders: A Monmouth University survey out Monday showed him trailing Biden by 15 points among likely voters.

  • Just a few weeks ago, Michael Bloomberg got taken to task on national television for forcing female employees to abide by nondisclosure agreements. Now he faces a new controversy involving N.D.A.s, after closing up shop on his campaign and laying off much of its staff. Some former employees, speaking on the condition of anonymity, told our reporter Rebecca Ruiz that they had been promised jobs through the general election, even if Bloomberg dropped out. Now they say they are being told their salaries will stop arriving at the end of March. And technically, they’re not allowed to speak out about it.

Senator Cory Booker of New Jersey appeared with Biden at Berston Field House in Flint, Mich., on Monday afternoon after endorsing the former vice president that morning.

If Biden coasts to the nomination, he will have a broad base of support to thank. He currently leads in national polls among both black and white voters, women as well as men.

But the party will still have to contend with a stubborn problem: A big portion of the working class feels as if the Democratic Party has abandoned it.

That feeling has led many to support Sanders for president, though it has been simmering since well before he entered the national spotlight in 2016. As Jennifer Medina and Sydney Ember illustrate in a new article, many of Sanders’s supporters are drawn to his policies because they say they directly need them: things like student-loan forgiveness, “Medicare for all” and a $15 minimum wage.

“The Sanders campaign has exposed a class divide within the Democratic Party: His promises of a leg up are most alluring to those who need it, and most confounding to those who do not,” Jennifer and Sydney write.

The latest Monmouth poll of Michigan has evidence that some of Sanders’s voters feel unrepresented by mainstream Democrats: Just 63 percent voted for Clinton in the 2016 general election. That’s compared with roughly four-fifths of Biden’s voters who did.

Should Biden win the nomination, the difference in November may depend upon whether he can recover some of the working-class voters that Clinton lost to Donald Trump, especially in key Midwestern states like Michigan.

Polls suggest Biden has the potential to do relatively well among working-class white voters against Trump. But in the past, Sanders’s base has also proved stubbornly loyal, to both its candidate and his ideas.

The president’s allies now control much of the apparatus that handles Republican Party voter data and fund-raising, according to a new report from Danny Hakim and Glenn Thrush.

And those Trump allies are using their new power to make money in ways that were never possible in a more transparent, analog era.

The upshot is that it has become harder for Republican candidates to run sophisticated digital campaigns without the support of Trump’s associates.

One of their biggest achievements has been founding WinRed, a fund-raising platform to compete with ActBlue, which supports Democratic campaigns.

“It is completely, thoroughly ironic that Trump, who ran against anything to do with the R.N.C. and the establishment, is the guy who is breathing new life into the party,” WinRed’s chairman, Henry Barbour, told Danny and Glenn.

We’ll have up-to-the-minute results and reporter analysis as the returns come in tonight from six Democratic primaries and caucuses. You can follow along at nytimes.com. (There are Republican primaries too, but there is rather less suspense for them.)

Here is what’s at stake in each Democratic contest and when polls close — meaning, when final results will start to come in.

  • Idaho primary (20 delegates): 10 p.m. Eastern time, except in northern counties closing at 11 p.m.

  • Michigan primary (125 delegates): 8 p.m., except in four counties closing at 9 p.m.

  • Mississippi primary (36 delegates): 8 p.m.

  • Missouri primary (68 delegate): 8 p.m.

  • North Dakota caucuses (14 delegates): 10 p.m.

  • Washington primary (89 delegates): 11 p.m.

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