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Sanders, Clinton Split Primaries; GOP Contests Attract More Voters


Voters delivered a surprise last night. Michigan gave a Democratic primary win to Bernie Sanders.


He narrowly defeated Hillary Clinton despite polls that showed him far behind. That was just one result on a night when Clinton also won Mississippi, not to mention Republican wins for Donald Trump and Ted Cruz.

INSKEEP: Let's focus for this moment on the Democrats. Margie Omero is with us again. She's a Democratic pollster. And she's on the line. Welcome back to the program.

MARGIE OMERO: Good morning, thanks for having me.

GREENE: And also on the line is John Feehery, who has served as a spokesman for leading Republican lawmakers. John, good morning to you.

JOHN FEEHERY: Good morning.

GREENE: Let me ask you both the same question, if I can. We've sort of enjoyed doing this on nights after voting to try and capture what happened. Margie, can you sum up the Democratic results last night in one sentence?

OMERO: Well, are we surprised by Sanders' gain, or are we surprised more by the polling? Is it more of a polling revolution that we may need to have? And if we look at the reason why, I think one reason could be trade. That certainly came out in exit polls and seems to have been an issue in the last few days before voting.

GREENE: All right. A long sentence, but we'll let you go with that. We look forward to exploring that more. John, what about you?

FEEHERY: Well, I think that it's Hillary Clinton's surprising weakness among African Americans in Michigan and the fact that Sanders had this upset victory. I think it's shocking.

INSKEEP: OK. We'll expand on those sentences in a moment. First, let's hear the candidates and some of their advisers. NPR's Tamara Keith is covering the campaign.

TAMARA KEITH, BYLINE: If elections are about expectations and momentum, then Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders won the night last night. Hillary Clinton won the primary as expected in Mississippi by an overwhelming margin. But Michigan was the biggest prize. And polls leading into the primary had Clinton up by double digits. That's not how it turned out, not even close.


BERNIE SANDERS: I just want to take this opportunity to thank the people of Michigan, who kind of repudiated the polls that had us 20, 25 points down a few days ago.

KEITH: That was Bernie Sanders at almost 11 o'clock last night. He had given a speech hours earlier. But he was back to make a statement after it was clear voters in Michigan were making a statement of their own.


SANDERS: What tonight means is that the Bernie Sanders campaign, the people's - the revolution - the people's revolution that we are talking about, the political revolution that we are talking about is strong in every part of the country.

KEITH: In the final tally, Sanders won Michigan by 2 percentage points, a margin of about 20,000 votes out of a million cast. Exit polls indicate Sanders' message about international trade deals hurting American workers resonated with Michigan voters.


SANDERS: And frankly, we believe that our strongest areas are yet to happen.

KEITH: Sanders' campaign sent out a fundraising email celebrating the win and asking his supporters to pitch in just a little bit more. If history is a guide, this win will help Sanders raise millions of dollars in a matter of hours. And that money will help him compete and run TV ads in the next states on the election calendar - Florida, Illinois, North Carolina, Missouri and Ohio.


HILLARY CLINTON: Thank you so much. Hello, Cleveland. Hello, Ohio.

KEITH: Long before the results were in, Hillary Clinton, her campaign sensing Michigan wasn't going their way, spoke to supporters in Cleveland.


CLINTON: This will be a busy week here in Ohio.


CLINTON: And this campaign is about building a future where every American can live up to his or her full potential.

KEITH: For the Clinton campaign, losing to Sanders in Michigan is a speed bump, one they certainly would rather have avoided. But as Clinton's team sees it, this race isn't about momentum or expectations or even about wins. It's about delegates. And in that respect, Clinton didn't actually lose last night. She pulled further ahead. With her 66-point win in Mississippi and her close second in Michigan, she ended the night winning more pledged delegates than Sanders. As she spoke last night, it was clear that Clinton has one eye on Sanders but the other on Donald Trump.


CLINTON: Now, running for president shouldn't be about delivering insults. It should be about delivering results for the American people.

KEITH: The delegate math remains in Clinton's favor. But Sanders' campaign adviser, Tad Devine, says this is a marathon not a sprint. He described the campaign strategy over the weekend to Politico reporter Glenn Thrush in his podcast called "Off Message."


TAD DEVINE: We're going to try to beat her in pledged delegates. We think we've got until the end of the process to do that. We think we have - it's going to be hard. It's going to be tough. We know we have to win to get it done. But we think we can.

KEITH: And after their stunning come-from-behind win in Michigan, it's a whole lot harder to tell them they can't.

GREENE: All right. That's our colleague Tamara Keith reporting on the Democratic results last night. We were listening here with Republican consultant John Feehery and Democratic pollster Margie Omero. And, Margie, let me start with you. You said a couple things before we started listening to that piece. You suggested this was a polling revolution in Michigan. You also brought up the issue of trade. I mean, what are Michigan Democratic voters saying here?

OMERO: Well, a majority of Michigan primary voters said in the exit polls that they think that trade can hurt U.S. jobs. And you saw that come out in the last Democratic debate. And actually, there's been some really great analysis about website FiveThirtyEight, where that's actually - their views on trade are one of the big differentiators between Clinton voters and Sanders voters. I was surprised to see trade be so salient, frankly. It's something that's pretty complicated and dense and different for every voter and how they experience it. But it may be important, particularly in the Midwest. And this may - the results from last night may portend what we are going to see next week in some of the other contests.

INSKEEP: John Feehery, we had an economist on the program yesterday who pointed out that this is a major dividing issue in both political parties. The elites of each party may be in one place. Their voters may be in another place.

FEEHERY: Yeah, the interesting thing is Trump is kind of the Bernie Sanders of the Republican Party. And that could be a vulnerability for Hillary if Trump gets the nomination. Now, listen, I think Hillary is still going to get the nomination. She's got the superdelegates. She's going to eek this out. But it's not going to be winning pretty. It's going to be winning ugly, as Tad Devine kind of said - acknowledged. And the fact is that trade has become a big issue for both parties. And in the upper Midwest, in Illinois, where I'm from, Wisconsin, Ohio and Michigan, you know, this is becoming a big issue for both parties. And I think both parties are going to take heat. I think the other problem for Hillary is she is the political establishment. And this seems to be an antiestablishment year in both parties.

GREENE: John, can I just ask you? You suggested that Hillary Clinton was seeing some weakness among African-American voters. Now, she seemed to do very well with black voters in Mississippi. And in Michigan, I mean, she certainly got a sizable amount of their support. What numbers are you looking at?

FEEHERY: What I was kind of - she didn't perform as well as people thought in Michigan. I think to Margie's point, the polls show that she was going to win Michigan easily. And she didn't get the turnout. And that's - I think Margie is exactly right. She did a trade in Michigan. But a little bit less of an issue in Mississippi, where obviously in the states in the South she's killing it. But in the upper Midwest, it's a real vulnerability. And that actually plays well for Republicans because you think about - Republicans are going to win the South. It's in the upper Midwest where they're going to have problems. And if Trump could be the nominee, that could present some problems for Hillary.

INSKEEP: You also have a fight over working-class voters, white voters particularly. Donald Trump has drawn a lot of of them and gotten a lot of attention. Bernie Sanders has fairly explicitly sought to attract working-class white voters back to the Democratic Party. What do these results suggest about how he's doing? Either of you...

FEEHERY: I think he's doing very well. And I think that - it's interesting that both Bernie and Trump are going for those same voters. And I think that they're doing better than expected in both parties. And it's been a fascinating fight.

INSKEEP: Margie Omero, do you think - I mean, this has been a subject of much debate. Do you think the Sanders voter is similar to the Trump voter? Or are we just kind of conflating two different movements here?

OMERO: You know, I cringe when I hear comparisons between Trump and Sanders. I mean, it's true that both, in the exit polls, show that voters who are particularly angry at the system, are angry at government, are more likely to vote for Sanders. And the Republican Party, they're more likely to vote for Trump. Trump is using just hateful language. I think it's something that Republicans should worry about. I think we should all be worrying about him becoming a nominee and what that means for our political process. Meanwhile, I don't think the same is true. Obviously, the same is not true for Sanders. And Democratic primary voters are much happier with either candidates Clinton or Sanders as their nominee. You don't see that in the Republican Party. There's a lot less satisfaction with any of the candidates being the nominee.

GREENE: Just about a minute left to talk to you both. Margie, let me just start with you. Something we've noticed, a lot of people have noticed. Turnout, much higher on the Republican side in a lot of states than on the Democratic side - is that a sign of more Republican excitement about this election? And are you worried about that?

OMERO: I'm not worried about that. I mean, one, when people make those comparisons, they compare Democratic turnout to 2008. It's higher than many other primaries. And 2008 was obviously different. It was historic for a variety of reasons. Also, the scene is competitive in nearly every state. And that obviously boosts turnout. And also, I think you're going to have a lot of voters who, you know - you have new voters coming on both sides. I don't think that having slightly new Republican voters and elevated turnout in Republican primaries means that they're going to be more competitive in the general. You have candidates on the Republican side who are incredibly unpopular nationwide.

INSKEEP: John Feehery, you've about 10 seconds here on turnout.

FEEHERY: I think the turnout is good for Republicans. The question is the turnout for which candidate? And that's the thing that's troubling. I think Margie's right - Trump and Cruz both trouble, I mean, to be honest with you.

INSKEEP: OK. Thanks very much to you both. Democratic pollster Margie Omero joined us this morning. Thank you very much.

OMERO: Thank you.

INSKEEP: Also, Republican strategist John Feehery, thanks to you.

FEEHERY: All right, thank you.

GREENE: Thank you both. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

David Greene is an award-winning journalist and New York Times best-selling author. He is a host of NPR's Morning Edition, the most listened-to radio news program in the United States, and also of NPR's popular morning news podcast, Up First.
Steve Inskeep
Steve Inskeep is a host of NPR's Morning Edition, as well as NPR's morning news podcast Up First.
Tamara Keith has been a White House correspondent for NPR since 2014 and co-hosts the NPR Politics Podcast, the top political news podcast in America. Keith has chronicled the Trump administration from day one, putting this unorthodox presidency in context for NPR listeners, from early morning tweets to executive orders and investigations. She covered the final two years of the Obama presidency, and during the 2016 presidential campaign she was assigned to cover Hillary Clinton. In 2018, Keith was elected to serve on the board of the White House Correspondents' Association.

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