by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
Bernie Sanders’s 16-point loss to Joe Biden in the Michigan primary came almost four years to the day after Sanders’s stunning upset of Hillary Clinton in Michigan on March 8, 2016, which became the most important moment of Sanders’s 2016 campaign. Michigan was the first really large state to Feel the Bern. Hillary’s weakness with white working-class voters in Michigan, which took pollsters by complete surprise, would take them by complete surprise again on Election Day in November.
White working-class voters were the essential element in transforming the youthful-activist “Bernie Bro” base into a coalition strong enough in 2016 to win not only Michigan but Wisconsin, Indiana, Minnesota, Oklahoma, Maine, West Virginia, Rhode Island, and a bushel of Western states, and run a very close second in Illinois, Missouri, Massachusetts, Kentucky, Connecticut, Iowa, and South Dakota. …
… One thing that has plainly hurt Sanders is that Democrats switched most of their 2016 caucuses to primaries. Minnesota, Maine, Idaho, and Washington all flipped from caucus victories for Sanders to primary losses or dead heats as the electorate expanded. (North Dakota switched to a modified party-run primary, which Sanders won.) The pattern of diluting Sanders’s support in a much broader electorate has held across the states that changed formats. In every state, the number of Bernie voters went up, but the turnout went up a lot more.