Why Clinton Needs a Strong Showing Tuesday After Michigan Disaster
Policy + Politics

Why Clinton Needs a Strong Showing Tuesday After Michigan Disaster

© Carlos Barria / Reuters

Still reeling from her stunning narrow loss to Sen. Bernie Sanders in Michigan last week, former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton needs a strong showing in Tuesday’s crucial Democratic primary contests in Florida and Midwestern states – and there’s reason to believe she can do that.

After leading Sanders by as much as 20 points in Michigan, Clinton lost by two percentage points last Tuesday after Sanders hit her hard on trade and the millions of dollars in speaking fees she accepted from Goldman Sachs and other Wall Street banks after leaving government. The democratic socialist senator from Vermont hopes to build on this first major victory from this large, racially diverse and industrialized state.

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However, Clinton is leading Sanders in Ohio and Florida two days before the new Super Tuesday primary elections, according to new polls released on Sunday, but she is locked  in a much closer contest with Sanders in Illinois, where she once led by a huge double-digit margin.

A new NBC News/Wall Street Journal/Marist poll shows Clinton holding a commanding lead over Sanders in Florida of 61 percent to 34 percent and a 58 percent to 38 percent lead over Sanders in Ohio. But she is clinging to a much narrower 51 percent to 45 percent over the Vermont senator in Illinois. A separate CBS News survey confirms her relatively solid leads in Florida and Ohio, thanks in part to strong backing from African Americans and Hispanics

Yet the CBS poll shows Sanders actually slightly ahead in Illinois, 48 percent to 46 percent, after Clinton had led there at one time by as much as 32 points, according to Real Clear Politics. While Clinton would continue to surge ahead of Sanders in the all-important delegate count with victories in two big states like Florida and Ohio, a loss in Illinois would provide added credence to Sanders’s argument that his populist economic and trade positions and strong anti-Wall Street views are resonating with Democratic voters across the country

Sanders also believes that Democratic party leaders and “super delegates” will eventually come to the conclusion that he would be the stronger nominee to take on Republican frontrunner Donald Trump in the general election campaign and would turn to him as the summer national convention approaches.

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A loss to Sanders in Illinois would be especially embarrassing to Clinton because she was born there and it is the home state of President Obama, who has signaled repeatedly that he considers his former secretary of state best qualified to succeed him in the White House.  Clinton has closely embraced Obama’s policies and has promised to build on his legacy if she is elected president

Sanders’s prospects in Illinois may have been enhanced by the clash of Trump supporters and protesters in Chicago Friday evening that forced Trump to cancel a rally at the University of Illinois at Chicago. Many of those protesters are in Sanders’s camp, and the ensuing debate over whether Trump has created a climate of vitriol and violence on the campaign trail is likely to turn out many Sanders backers at the polls on Tuesday.

Trump and Sanders differed sharply today over who was more responsible for the violence and confrontations, with the billionaire businessman warning Sanders of possible retaliations by Trump supporters at some of Sanders’s campaign events.

“I think we have a lot of momentum in Illinois, in Ohio, in Missouri,” Sanders said on CBS’s Face the Nation today in handicapping his chances in Tuesday’s primaries. “I think we will do better than people think in North Carolina and in Florida. So we’re looking forward to a very good Tuesday and we’re looking forward to winning the Democratic nomination.”

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Sanders and Clinton are scheduled to appear together at a town hall at Ohio State University in Columbus tonight, which will be nationally televised by CNN. The subject of violence at Trump events in Chicago and elsewhere is certain to come up during the two-hour event. However, until now, Clinton has been oddly reticent to discuss the subject.

Clinton in the past has been willing to call out Trump for his “bluster and bigotry.” Yet in a statement she released early Saturday morning, she said nothing about Trump. “The divisive rhetoric we are seeing should be of grave concern to us all,” she said. “We all have our differences and we know many people across the country feel angry. We need to address that anger together.”

Some Democrats were unhappy that instead of directly taking on Trump’s tactics of inciting hatred and division that Clinton evoked the massacre in Charleston, S.C., which left nine African-American churchgoers dead, The Washington Post reported. Clinton cited that tragic event as an example of how the country can overcome division.