Climate voters help secure Biden’s Mich. victory

Source: By Timothy Cama, E&E News reporter • Posted: Wednesday, March 11, 2020

Joe Biden had another very good night.

The former vice president won Michigan’s Democratic presidential primary, as well as three other states last night.

His rival, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), is ahead in two states, but those races remain too close to be called.

Exit polls indicated voters, while interested in climate change, did not view it consistently as the No. 2 issue behind health care, as they had in most previous contests. Race relations and income inequality were also key concerns.

For those voters who did back climate change, the former vice president won the majority in half the states polled — Missouri and Michigan — according to exit polling by Edison Research for numerous news organizations including CNN and The Washington Post.

Sanders won these voters in Washington, with 36% to Biden’s 30%, according to the survey data.

In Mississippi, the issue ranked fourth of four issues polled, and there was not enough data to determine who these voters preferred.

Biden’s wins — particularly in the night’s big prize of Michigan — further cemented his momentum in the fight for the party’s nomination.

He gave a relatively muted, somber speech in Philadelphia last night before a small group of campaign staff and media, after canceling his planned rally in Cleveland because of concerns over the new coronavirus.

During his address he touched on some main points from his usual stump speech. “In the fight against climate change, we have to rally the rest of the world to act and act now,” he said, adding that he would “rejoin the Paris climate accord on day one.”

Major news outlets declared Biden the winner shortly after the last of Michigan’s polls closed at 8 p.m. CDT, beating Sanders and giving him most of the 125 delegates available in the Great Lakes State.

Biden, who is considered the Democratic establishment candidate in the race that has all but become a two-person field, also won Mississippi, Missouri and Idaho.

Sanders is leading in North Dakota, 48.5% to 42.4%. His lead in Washington is razor thin, 32.7% to 32.5% — a margin of slightly more than 2,000 votes.

Andrew Yang became the latest former Democratic candidate to endorse Biden last night, after the returns began to come in showing he was going to have a strong showing.

Michigan, a heavily African-American state, is a big win for Biden. Sanders, a self-described democratic socialist, won the state in the 2016 primary against Hillary Clinton.

But Clinton lost it in the general election to President Trump, the first Democratic presidential loss in the highly diverse, union-heavy state since 1988.

The six contests of the night further narrowed Sanders’ field to the 1,991 delegates a candidate needs to win the nomination. Biden now has an estimated 823 delegates to Sanders’s 663.

Rep. Tulsi Gabbard of Hawaii, who is still in the race, has two delegates and earned none yesterday.

Will Sanders drop out?

Sanders is showing no major signs that he’ll drop out of the race. In 2016, he stayed in through June.

The senator decided against speaking publicly last night, breaking with a tradition he and other major candidates have kept throughout the primary season.

He canceled a rally planned yesterday for Cleveland — a week before Ohio’s primary — due to concerns over the novel coronavirus and went home to Burlington, Vt., instead.

The two men will face each other Sunday at a debate in Phoenix, although because of the coronavirus, there will be no audience. The debate will provide Sanders an opportunity to attack Biden and potentially gain some momentum against him.

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.), a high-profile Sanders surrogate, was pessimistic last night.

“There’s no sugarcoating this. This is a very tough night for the movement,” she said on Instagram.

Biden, for his part, began welcoming Sanders supporters to the fold, even though his opponent has not left the race.

“I want to thank Bernie Sanders and his supporters for their tireless passion,” he said, welcoming viewers in general to help with his campaign. “We share a common goal, and together, we’ll defeat Donald Trump. We’ll defeat him together. We’re going to bring this nation together.”

In addition to Ohio, Democrats in Arizona, Florida and Illinois will vote next on March 17, followed by Georgia on March 24.

Mississippi

One state also held congressional primaries yesterday, and the only real contest in Mississippi was the Democratic nomination for Senate.

Mike Espy, the former secretary of Agriculture and three-term congressman from Jackson, won his primary for a rematch with Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith (R) in the general election.

The two faced off in 2018 in a special election after Hyde-Smith was appointed to fill out the remainder of Sen. Thad Cochran’s term when he resigned due to health concerns.