CNN projects Clinton, Trump win Mississippi

Posted at 9:05 PM, Mar 08, 2016
and last updated 2016-03-08 21:59:39-05

Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump will win the Mississippi Democratic and Republican primaries, according to CNN projections.

Clinton’s early win in Mississippi consolidates her dominance of Southern primary states with high numbers of African-American voters, a constituency with which Bernie Sanders, who has performed better in less diverse states, struggles.

Trump’s victory, meanwhile, is a sign that despite a blitz of attacks on the front-runner by rival candidates and the Republican establishment, his capacity to win states seems undiminished. It also shows that his message is connecting with an angry electorate attracted to “outsider” candidates.

The contests come on what is being dubbed Super Tuesday 2. Republicans are competing in four states — Michigan, Mississippi, Idaho, and Hawaii — with 150 delegates up for grabs. Democrats are fighting for 166 delegates in Michigan and Mississippi.

Texas Sen. Ted Cruz is hoping for a strong showing to bolster his claim that he is the only Republican who can stop Trump, and Florida Sen. Marco Rubio is desperate for some evidence to counter an impression that his campaign is fading.

But the Sanders campaign is determined to show in Michigan that it can compete in the delegate-rich states in the Midwest, ahead of showdowns in Illinois, Ohio and Wisconsin looming in the coming weeks.

A Monmouth poll found Clinton leading 55% to 42% going into the Michigan primary, and she has begun to gently make the case that it might be time for Sanders, who has vowed to fight on until the Democratic convention, to consider his position.

“The sooner I could become your nominee, the more I could begin to turn attention to the Republicans,” Clinton told supporters on Monday.

But her campaign is stopping short of predicting a victory in Michigan.

“We think that the race is much closer than the public polls show,” Clinton’s campaign manager Robby Mook told CNN’s “The Situation Room with Wolf Blitzer” on Tuesday.

Clinton and Sanders have clashed repeatedly in recent days over issues that are vital to Michigan voters. The former secretary of state’s hammered her rival over a vote against a bailout for the U.S. auto industry in 2009, while the Vermont senator lambasted her over her past support for free trade deals which he said sowed ruin in the Midwest.

“What these trade agreements have done is decimate community after community in the Midwest and all over America,” Sanders said in the state.

“I have helped lead the opposition to every one of these disastrous trade agreements,” he said, “because I knew what they would do.”

Clinton holds an overall lead of around 200 pledged delegates over Sanders, whose spirited campaign has enlivened grass-roots Democrats and tugged the former secretary of state to the left on some key issues.

The biggest prize

Michigan is the biggest prize on Tuesday in both races. The state will offer clues about the appeal of the leading candidates among blue-collar voters in the industrial Midwest and may hold omens for significant looming primaries in states like Ohio and Illinois.

The state looms as particularly important for Trump following anecdotal evidence that fierce attacks on his character and qualifications by other candidates and the Republican establishment may be beginning to have an impact. The billionaire’s margin of victory was smaller than expected in Louisiana and Kentucky over the weekend.

There were also signs of widening support for his closest rival in the delegate count, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, who shrugged off a disappointing showing on Super Tuesday last week.

Still, a Monmouth University poll of Michigan on Monday showed Trump with a big lead and again benefiting from a split opposition against him. The front-runner was at 36%, Cruz was second with 23%, Ohio Gov. John Kasich had 21% and Florida Sen. Marco Rubio was at 13%.

A big win in Michigan is important for Trump because it would offer evidence for his argument that he is uniquely qualified among Republicans to attract swing voters in Rust Belt states and to expand the party’s general election coalition.

“I’m not a normal Republican,” Trump said last week in Macomb County, the place where the fabled phenomenon of Reagan Democrats, who dropped their party affiliation to side with the Republican president, was first identified.

“A normal Republican cannot think in terms … of bringing in Michigan. And if you don’t bring in Michigan it’s tough. You have a very narrow road,” Trump said.

Trump will be helped on Tuesday by the fact that both Michigan and Mississippi have open primaries, meaning that Democrats and independents attracted by his message can vote in the Republican contest.

Cruz, currently the best-placed challenger to Trump, has tended to do better in closed races, where only registered GOP voters can take part and where conservatives hold more sway. The Texas senator, however, will be looking for a strong performance in Mississippi and a second-place finish in Michigan to bolster his case that he — and not Rubio — is the only viable alternative to Trump.

Important moment for Kasich

Tuesday’s races also represent an important moment for Kasich, who has spent several weeks effectively on the sidelines following a strong second-place showing in the New Hampshire primary last month. In the Southern primaries, he has proven to be less popular.

Michigan may also be a barometer of Kasich’s prospects in his own state of Ohio next week, which is a make-or-break contest for him.

And despite winning the Puerto Rico primary for his second victory of the campaign on Sunday, Rubio appears to be headed for another tough night.

Rules requiring a candidate to reach a threshold to get a share of the delegates on offer in the three primary states on Tuesday could see him fall further behind Cruz, who has already suggested his fellow senator should get out of the race.