By Lambert Strether of Corrente.
The headline tells the story. Here are — let me get out my calculator — fourteen “hot takes” on the Michigan primary. (“Hey, you’re saying ‘glib’ like that’s a bad thing!”)
A lot of what follows I collected while I watched the results come in on the Twitter (don’t blow it, @jack). I’ve gone deeper when I had the time, but there’s a lot more real work to be done. I haven’t had time to take a serious look at the exit polls — CNN; the Times — so I’m hesistant to assign causes or draw conclusions. (In particular, I don’t know much about the mechanics of the Sanders campaign; could be brilliance by Devine and his crew, could be unknown locals pulled Devine’s chestnuts out of the fire; could be both were brilliant, or anything in between. Ditto the Clinton operation.) For the same reason, this post isn’t as full of linky goodness as it ought to be.)
1. Clinton blows another lead.
I hate to quote Frank “Death Tax” Luntz, but when he’s right, he’s right.
— Frank Luntz (@FrankLuntz) March 9, 2016
And I don’t like quoting Nate Silver much, either, but for the same reason:
In the famous New Hampshire upset in '08, Clinton trailed Obama by 8 points. Big upset. But today, Sanders trailed Clinton by *21* and won.
— Nate Silver (@NateSilver538) March 9, 2016
Twenty points, just like in Iowa and Nevada. It will be interesting to see if there’s a pattern here, eh?
2. Will @NateSilver538 drop out of the race?
— Peter Kofod (@peterkofod) March 9, 2016
3. The political class blew Michigan as badly as Clinton did.
One of many headlines: “Clinton, Trump Poised to Sail Through Michigan.” In addition, Twitter provides many vivid descriptions of media dysfunction, including cutting away from the tight Democratic race to cover a Trump speech, analysts framing everything as good for Clinton, the faces of panicked stenographers as the narrative fell apart, and CNN announcers relentlessly clicking on their fancy interactive map to find that one precinct pop-up where the missing Clinton votes could possibly be.
Oh, and the political class blowing it extends very much to the Clinton campaign apparatus:
Jeff Zeleny says a Clinton aide told him she "misunderstood the electorate" in Michigan. Oh that's all
— David Dayen (@ddayen) March 9, 2016
Seems a little late in the day for misunderstanding the electorate. Maybe Clinton should reintroduce herself to them? Have a conversation? Maybe a listening tour?
4. This race will go all the way to the convention.
Sanders will have another fundraising surge from small donors. Fortune:
He will likely be able to use this win to get another round of fundraising, as most of his donors are individuals who haven’t maxed out their donation totals; if they gave $10 in October, he can ask them to give another $10 now. And given the general enthusiasm of Sanders voters, it’s a good bet a lot of them will.
Sanders gets a million bucks when Clinton lies about him. So what happens when he wins?
And given that Clinton as much as called for Sanders to drop out on Monday, losing to Sanders on Tuesday isn’t a good look. What she said:
[CLINTON] The sooner I could become your nominee, the more I could begin to turn my attention to the Republicans.
If only that pesky old guy with the hair stopped hanging around, I could put this thing away! (Notice that careful parsing of that wording could include a scenario where Clinton appeals to moderate Republicans, and throws Sanders, as well as her early voters), under the bus.)
5. The black vote is not monolithic.
Charles Blow makes a key distinction:
— Charles M. Blow (@CharlesMBlow) March 9, 2016
And Sanders leveraged the difference. (Remember all the pearl-clutching when Sanders said he’d do better with Black voters in the North? Turns out he was right.) From The Nation:
Yet Sanders’ success in Michigan was helped by the fact he significantly improved his performance with African American voters. While Sanders had struggled in the south to get above 15% of the vote with black people, exit polls in Michigan showed the Vermont senator winning 30% of the African American vote. In an electorate that was a quarter African American, the improvement in Sanders’ margin was enough to make the race unexpectedly competitive for him.
(See also below, on the “Obama Coalition.”)
6. Clinton paid for Iraq and Libya in Dearborn.
Dearborn has a lot of Muslim voters.
Bernie did a rally in Dearborn and did Arabic-langauge advertising. Team Intersectional Hillary did neither
— Zaid Jilani (@ZaidJilani) March 9, 2016
@ZaidJilani Can't understand people shocked over Muslims supporting socialist Jew. Easy choice given Hillary's views.
— Syed Qadri (@syedaqadri) March 9, 2016
Clinton’s blown a lot of faraway brown people to pink mist in pursuit of her “pragmatic” “hard choices” in foreign policy. So it’s unsurprising that the relatives of those people now living in this country would take that into account when making their voting decision.
7. Did Clinton’s auto bailout smear help her or hurt her?
Let’s start with a candidate for euphemism of the year:
David Axelrod speaking the truth on CNN: "Clinton struck a on the auto bailout."
— Michael Moore (@MMFlint) March 9, 2016
“False note,” eh? NC readers know it wasn’t just one note, but a whole aria. From yesterday’s Water Cooler, this is what it looked like:
The Dem frontrunner is BRAGGING about her support of the Wall St bailout. Just think about that for a sec. Amazing. pic.twitter.com/zL2rwkWgHx
&mdash; David Sirota (@davidsirota) March 7, 2016
But Michigan voters know the score, and Clinton’s Rovian tactics ticked off the auto workers:
UAW liked Bernie on trade to begin with, then was backlash to Hillary portraying him as anti auto-bailout. Got UAW folks very revved up.
— Noam Scheiber (@noamscheiber) March 9, 2016
EmptyWheel, who lives in Michigan, summarizes the Clinton smear:
It is true that Bush’s failure to fund an auto-specific bailout meant that TARP funds got used to fund the $85 billion auto rescue (Bush had already spent some money on the auto companies — basically just enough to ensure they’d go under on Obama’s watch, but not enough to do anything to save them). But that’s not what the vote was (and there might have been enough money for the auto bailout in any case).
… Contemporary reporting on the vote also did not mention the auto bailout (though there had been discussion that it might be used the previous month).
Moreover, there had been an auto bailout vote in the Senate (on a bill already passed by the House) on December 11, which failed. Both Bernie and Hillary voted in support.
So while Hillary’s attack was technically correct — Bernie did vote against giving Jamie Dimon more free money, which had the side effect of voting against the second installment on the fund that would eventually become the auto bailout — he did not vote against the auto bailout.
The auto bailout attack was a pretty shameful ploy, one that otherwise would make it fair game to really hit on Hillary’s own actions in a way Bernie has not yet done.
Well, maybe that can start now? (Incidentally, kudos to Sanders for not snarling, Bob Dole-style, “Quit lying about my record.” That’s a job for surrogates.)
8. Did Clinton’s Flint gambit fail because of her trust deficit?
Basically, voters just don’t like or trust Clinton. We can argue about whether that’s fair, but realpolitik says it’s true.
— Aaron Zitner (@aaronzitner) March 9, 2016
Clinton made the Flint lead situation a centerpiece of her Michigan campaign. But Flint split evenly Sanders/Clinton. Could one reason be that no matter what she says, she’s not trusted? “Words are wind,” as they say on Game of Thrones.
9. Will the Michigan debacle lead to a Clinton campaign shakeup?
Probably depends on how ticked off The Big Dog gets. There was an eruption earlier in the season:
After finally stepping out of the shadows earlier this month to begin stumping for his wife, Bill Clinton is reportedly seizing a larger role in advising Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign as he grows increasingly worried that she isn’t focusing enough on the dozens of primary states that vote in March.
News of Bill’s involvement in Clinton’s camp reflects a very real concern: what once seemed an easy path to victory for the former secretary of state has now turned treacherous… According to Politico, Bill has been urging the campaign to begin diverting resources outside Iowa and New Hampshire, reportedly calling her campaign manager, Robert Mook, “almost daily” to persuade him to send more staff to the states voting in March.
Bill Clinton: “Bring me the head of Robbie Mook!”
10. Clinton has made Sanders a better candidate.
Ha ha. Just snark.
11. Clinton is only electable in primary states she can’t win in the general.
Here are the results so far:
— NYT Graphics (@nytgraphics) March 9, 2016
See a lot of those states in play for Democrats in the general? See any that are in play that Sanders couldn’t win?
12. Sanders claims key parts of the “Obama Coalition”
— Ronald Brownstein (@RonBrownstein) March 9, 2016
Actually, Brownstein is wrong: The demographic (granted, the only demographic) that Sanders won in South Carolina was younger blacks.) And:
Although Clinton won the black vote in Michigan, her margin was considerably smaller than it had been in the South. Sanders ran even with her among the youngest black voters, opening a generational gap similar to those that had been seen in other states among Latino and white voters.
Outside a Hillary Clinton rally at the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History in Detroit on Monday night, hip-hop producer Jerry Flynn Dale was on the verge of exasperation as he tried to talk a trio of college students out of voting for Sanders..
“Look up in the sky,” he demanded in response to their argument that college should be fully paid for by government. “Is that the pie you are going to eat?”
Civilized countries like Germany make and serve that pie, as anybody with access to Google (or a passport) knows. Are we so “exceptional” that we can’t?
13. The “white working class” vote is not monolithic.
I just want to lay down a marker bring Case-Deaton into this. Any time you have that level of organic damage to a population, you get a political reaction. BlackLivesMatter; Act-Up. Our political class wants to frame “white working class” votes as driven by racism or possibly nostalgia for the 50s (a particularly idiotic example). I think the picture is larger.
14. Why not a one-on-one Trump vs. Sanders debate right now?
Mano a mano! Too soon?
The Clinton campaign will double down on what they’re already doing. We’re going to see a spot of trouble, now.
Appendix I: Sanders reaction
Waiting for the official announcement:
— JenST (@blueridergrl) March 9, 2016
Appendix II: Clinton Talking Points Spotted in the Wild
Sorry, no links!
1. Michigan demographics are unfavorable
2. Only the delegate count matters