Bernie Sanders' win in Michigan will go down as the stunner of the election cycle to date, handing his campaign a fresh rationale and new evidence of his rival's vulnerabilities at a critical time in the race.
Sanders’ win will raise new questions about the presumed strength and dominance of Hillary Clinton’s campaign. (It will also raise questions about the reliability of state-level polling).
It will buttress the Sanders campaign’s contention that Clinton is a “regional” candidate – strong really only in the South. That will sting and gain currency as the voting moves on to states including Illinois and Ohio next week, where there are regional similarities to Michigan and roughly similar demographics when it comes to minority voters.
Sanders romped among younger voters -- 80-20 -- and independent voters also turned out for him on Tuesday.
Sanders lost black voters by a 2-1 margin in Michigan. Yeah, that’s a blowout, sure. But he lost black voters by a 9-1 margin in Mississippi, and that’s been the story across the South.
Sanders, of course, is well-financed enough to keep this campaign going for a very, very long time. His message of economic empowerment appears to have resonated in a big industrial state. He might have found the breakthrough he needed to sustain that message tonight.
As for the math, this doesn’t change the dynamics that favor Clinton overwhelmingly in the race for the nomination. They’ll split the delegates almost evenly in Michigan, while she captures most of the delegates in Mississippi. For Sanders to catch up with Clinton, he still needs to win big and in lots of places he’s not expected to come in first. That doesn’t even take into account the superdelegates who amount to the Clinton security blanket.
But there’s another Democratic debate tonight, in Miami, hosted by Univision and The Washington Post. This will start to feel like a real race again.
And for a while at least, if anyone pencils in a race for Hillary, Sanders folks will be able to say: Remember Michigan…