A lot is riding on Michigan. The state primary takes place on Tuesday and some 125 delegates are up for grabs. Recent polls show former Vice President Joe Biden holding a narrow lead over Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, and Biden's support may be buoyed by renewed enthusiasm for his campaign following wins in South Carolina and Super Tuesday. Biden has reclaimed his status as the Democratic Party's frontrunner, and a win in Michigan may be enough to cement that status if Bernie Sanders fails to win another state he narrowly carried in 2016 against Hillary Clinton.
The New York Times is now reporting that Bernie Sanders is canceling an upcoming rally in Mississippi on Friday and will instead campaign in Michigan. The report suggests that Sanders's new focus on Michigan reflects a change in campaign strategy that will concentrate on the midwest and abandon efforts to challenge Joe Biden's support among black voters in the South. Blacks appear to be backing Joe Biden at this point, and their support helped Biden carry states like North Carolina, Virginia and Alabama on Super Tuesday.
(Via The New York Times)
In Alabama, Mr. Sanders won only 9 percent of black voters, compared with 72 percent for Mr. Biden, according to exit polls. Mr. Biden outperformed Mr. Sanders among black voters in Virginia by more than 50 points, and by 40 points or more in Texas and North Carolina. In several states, Mr. Sanders came in third among black voters, behind not only Mr. Biden but also Michael R. Bloomberg.
The shift in Mr. Sanders’s schedule was also an acknowledgment that he had not improved his standing among black voters in the South four years after his first run for president. In 2016, he faced criticism for his inability to organize support from African-Americans, a weakness that contributed to his loss to Hillary Clinton in the Democratic primary.
The scheduling move comes only hours after Michigan's Democratic Governor Gretchen Whitmer endorsed Joe Biden for president.
"Working families in Michigan need a president who will show up and fight for them, and Joe Biden has proven time and again that he has our backs," the governor said in a statement. "Michiganders have grit. We’re tough. We know what it’s like to be overlooked and counted out. And we know that when you get knocked down, you pick yourself up and get back to work. Joe Biden has been right there with us in the tough fights."
Sanders told reporters on Thursday that his campaign would be sending staff members to Mississippi ahead of Tuesday's election. Idaho, Missouri, North Dakota, Washington, Mississipi, and Michigan all hold primaries on Tuesday. But Michigan is the largest prize up for grabs, with 125 delegates, compared to Mississippi's 36.