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Why Motown Might Leave Candidates Singing the Blues

Hillary Clinton speaks during a rally in Detroit on March 7, 2016GEOFF ROBINS—AFP/Getty Images

The Showdown in Motown finally arrived Tuesday, as Bernie Sanders looked perhaps for the last time to prove he can he win African-American voters over Hillary Clinton. Ohio’s Republican Governor, John Kasich, meanwhile, was looking to prove that he could win in the Midwest ahead of his win-or-quit race next week at home.

By the time polls close, more than a few candidates might be singing the blues.

Clinton began her day ahead of Sanders in public polls, even though advisers to both Democrats said the race was closer than the surveys suggested. It’s why Clinton agreed to a primary-eve forum on Fox News, Democrats’ least favorite cable network, and then held a campaign rally at the world’s largest museum dedicated to African-American history.

Kasich, meanwhile, was chasing billionaire frontrunner Donald Trump. The former reality TV star is ahead in polls; in some, Trump is up by a more than 2-to-1 margin. Kasich seemed unbowed and continued campaigning because, under GOP rules, he can still pick up delegates by placing second or even third. Their rivals Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio largely left the state for Trump and Kasich, and the two Senators were looking ahead at bigger prizes that vote next week.

Trump and Clinton are ahead in their races for delegates to the nominating convention. Those activists are what the candidates are now chasing, more than states themselves. The byzantine rules in each party give even runners-up delegates, but Clinton’s superior political machine has proved more effective at running up the numbers. Republicans were now considering the very real possibility that they might arrive at their convention in Cleveland without a nominee.

Clinton is building an increasingly-impossible-to-catch lead in delegates. But Michigan might prove to be a tricky state for her, especially as Sanders has been campaigning as a fierce anti-trade candidate. Michigan’s manufacturers have been declining over decades, and many residents here blame free trade for their economy that is, by all measures, a crisis. Joblessness has led to foreclosures have led to neighborhood blight has led to low tax collections have led to disastrous schools. It���s a horrible cycle that is personal to Michigan residents, and it might help Sanders find his first significant win in a state with a large African-American population.

Clinton took the optimistic route as she closed out her Michigan campaign with a Monday night rally. “It’s exciting to be here in Detroit, a city on the way back up,” Clinton said, a contrast to Sanders’ dour assessment of the state’s economy. “We are going to have a Renaissance in manufacturing,” she added. The Clinton campaign has been camped out in Michigan in recent days, dispatching her husband and daughter to events, too. “We needed to spend the extra time, and it paid off,” said one senior adviser. Many in the upper ranks of Clinton’s campaign were trying to hasten Sanders from the race, and a loss in Michigan could be yet another nudge for him to leave the stage.

Clinton urged Democrats to stop flirting with Sanders and get behind her—and put the primary behind the party, too. “The sooner that I could be come your nominee, the more I can begin to turn my attention to the Republicans,” she said. That didn’t stop her from criticizing Trump to a rowdy crowd of more than 800 people.

“We cannot allow a person like that become President of the United States,” she said, sounding as though she was already the nominee. “We need to unify our country, not divide it.”

She made a specific appeal for Muslim-Americans, who are a sizable population in Michigan. “I will do everything I can do keep America safe. I know that among the most important people to help us do that are our Muslim-American friends,” Clinton said. “When you hear the kind of bigotry and bluster coming from the Republican side—not only making very intimidating remarks about American Muslims, but talking about keeping Muslims from coming into our country, insulting one of the great religions of the world—that is not only offensive, it is dangerous and counter-productive.”

Elsewhere, both parties were having contests in Mississippi, while Republicans in Hawaii and Idaho were voting. They were, however, small chips ahead of March 15’s contests, which make an important shift. Under party rules next week, winners of these contests start collecting all of the delegates as opposed to the contests before it when delegates were allocated in proportion to vote tallies. The shift to winner-take-all suddenly makes losing even more painful, and might usher some of these candidates from the race. Clinton and Trump alike were already looking forward to the morning after, March 16.

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