March 9, 2016 (San Diego) Momentum and upset are words that should be crossing the minds of Democratic Strategists. Michigan was not just closing the polling gap, but a polling failure of immense proportions. Secretary Hillary Clinton admitted that she did not connect with the Michigan electorate. Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) did not expect this victory. Reportedly he had already retired for the night.
Nate Silver admitted that he failed in his analysis. This is the worst polling failure in recent history. It was as unexpected and large as Dewey defeats Truman. So what happened? This was a critical race and we saw historic over performing on the Sanders side, or under performing on the Clinton side.
First, and at Reporting San Diego we believe this played a critical role. Michigan is an open primary state. This means that voters can vote for anybody on the ballot if they are independent voters. (They can also cross party lines.)
The Independent vote could portend trouble for Clinton in a general election match up. 77 percent of independents voted for Senator Sanders. This is according to CNN exit polls.
There are other signs in the data of possible weakness in a general election. We are positive that the Clinton campaign will under play the vote of Muslim Americans. They literally gave Dearborn to a Jewish American candidate. We could not miss this detail. As they say, only in America. Of course, Congressman Keith Ellison endorsed Sanders. While we tend to think of endorsements as mostly white noise anymore, in immigrant communities they have a little more weight.
Then there are African Americans, who Clinton considers her firewall. Well, 31 percent broke for Sanders. This is betraying two elements in the race. The first are the regional and historic differences. The Clinton campaign has spoken of minorities as monolithic parts, that are interchangeable. The children of the Great Migration have a different experience and Sander’s message might resonate better. We need a little more data to conclude this. Both Van Jones and Donna Brazile made this precise point on CNN last night. There is also the element of time and that he is becoming known by voters. Clinton started this with a very large name recognition advantage. Sanders was a virtual unknown.
There are other signs of trouble for the Clinton campaign. Sanders once again did very well with the millennial vote. Clinton did not even start to chip away at it. Moreover, though she did well with both low and high income brackets. He did well with the middle income brackets.
Less mentioned, or likely not noticed, is that Sanders also over performed in Mississippi. Yes, he got a shellacking. But all polling going into the contest indicated a shut out in delegates. So the fact that he got 4 delegates, out of 34 at stake might be important.
One thing that Silver wrote in his mea culpa that caught our attention is that there is likely a weakness in polling methodology. The polls are missing something. We agree. Gallup had to revise their methodology from the ground up after Truman beat Dewey. Ever since 2000 polls have become consistently weaker as predictive tools. So just as Gallup had to go back to the drawing board (and they are out of the game this year for the same reason, it is time to deeply review polling.
Big Picture Delegate Count
This does not mean Sanders made up in the total delegate count. At the moment the race stands at this point regarding the delegate count:
* Clinton: 768 pledged delegates (32 percent to nomination)
* Sanders: 553 (23.2 percent to nomination)
The difference is 215 net difference. This is from Vox. Either of them needs 2,026 delegates to secure the nomination. Once again, we are not counting Super-Delegates since they distort the picture.
This race will now go the distance and in our view, starting with Maine, momentum started to switch. The question is whether this unexpected, but critical win, has somewhat opened the still narrow map for the Sanders campaign.
It also should raise another question. This is whether Clinton is truly a very strong regional candidate? We like contested primaries though. Therefore we are as happy as can be. We expect though, this to become a question among at least some super delegates. While we are not counting them towards any totals, 2008 saw a similar phenomena with the contest between President Barack Obama and Secretary Clinton.