Michigan voters validated once-unlikely presidential contenders Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders, with the Vermont senator’s upset of Hillary Clinton a major reminder that he is still viable and the billionaire businessman reinforcing his front-runner status.
Sanders’ victory Tuesday by 2 percentage points in a high-turnout election assured him at least 65 delegates, and former Secretary of State Clinton was guaranteed at least 58 in an industrial state offering the second-biggest haul of Democratic delegates so far.
Trump comfortably beat Texas Sen. Ted Cruz — who edged out Ohio Gov. John Kasich for second — while Florida Sen. Marco Rubio fell short of a 15 percent threshold to collect a portion of the third-most Republican delegates up for grabs to date.
Trump, who led by about 12 percentage points with 99 percent of precincts reporting, will collect 25 delegates and Cruz and Kasich 17 each.
Trump predicted he would win Michigan in November’s general election, something a Republican nominee has not done in 28 years.
“I’m going to get Michigan because we’re going to bring the car industry back,” Trump said. “We’re going to take it back. We’re going to bring the car industry back into Michigan.”
Sanders, who campaigned vigorously across the state at large rallies, said Michigan voters “repudiated” the polls and pundits.
“What tonight means is that the Bernie Sanders campaign, the people’s revolution, the political revolution, is strong in every part of the country,” he said.
Car salesman Rick Waddell, 61, of Crystal Township in Montcalm County northeast of Grand Rapids, said he and his wife, Kaye, voted for Trump.
“We are so disappointed with the GOP establishment, and the same old, same old doesn’t cut it,” he said. “We need drastic action to reverse our downward spiral economically.”
In recent days, the Democrats battled over trade deals and auto bailouts in the state that lost hundreds of thousands of jobs in a protracted, decade-long downturn. They also held a debate in Flint, where residents need filters to use tap water because of lead contamination resulting from state regulatory failures.
“For me, Sanders represented the direction I want to see the country going — more inclusivity and compassion,” said mechanic Kyle Wiswal, 41, of Detroit.
Emily Arbut, a 33-year-old from Traverse City who works in marketing, said while Sanders is running as a revolutionary anti-establishment candidate, she considers him a bridge builder who could unite the nation.
“Sure, he does have some far-swinging ideas,” she said. “But I think everyone does that when they’re campaigning, to differentiate themselves and once they get into office they realize they have to sort of find a middle ground. And I really feel like he could do it.”
Among Republicans, who debated in Detroit, Kasich in particular put a heavy emphasis on Michigan before next week’s crucial winner-take-all primary in Ohio.
About 2.5 million people, or a third of registered voters, voted — casting the most ballots in a presidential primary in 44 years, when 1.9 million participated. Turnout in 1972, though, was higher as a percentage of registered voters — 47 percent. This was the first time that both parties had a meaningful primary in the same year since 1992.
Exit polls conducted for The Associated Press and television networks by Edison Research showed that Trump and Sanders rode a wave of voter discontent with the Washington establishment and deep anxiety over the economy to victory. They also benefited from a widespread belief that international trade does more harm than good in a state struggling to overcome a Rust Belt legacy of manufacturing jobs outsourced to low-wage countries. More than half the voters in both parties described trade as a job killer.
After this summer’s national conventions, Michigan will be crucial to the Democratic nominee. Democrats have won the state six straight times dating back to 1992, and the general election has not been competitive since 2004. (AP)