GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (AP/WOOD) — U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders breathed new life into his longshot White House bid with a crucial win in Michigan’s primary Tuesday night, chipping away at Hillary Clinton’s dominance in the Democratic presidential race. Billionaire Donald Trump won the state’s Republican presidential primary with a strong lead over his opponents.
Sanders’ success was a surprise, as polls in the weeks just before the vote showed former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton with a handy lead over him. Sanders took 50 percent of the vote while former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton finished with 48 percent.
It wasn’t until about three and a half hours after polls closed that the race was called for Sanders.
U.S. Rep. Brenda Lawrence, D-Southfield, didn’t expect to be sitting on pins and needles waiting for the results of the her party’s primary to come in.
“There is such excitement about the experience and such a qualified candidate (Clinton) to be the president,” she said, though she conceded that “Bernie Sanders brings excitement that it will benefit the Democratic Party. And at the end of the day, I’m proud that Democrats came out and voted.”
Sanders may have been well-served by his stumping in Michigan just before the primary — he had big campaign events all over the state, including in East Lansing, Kalamazoo and Allendale, where he fired up his passionate base of college-age supporters.
The win didn’t put a huge dent in the delegate count for Democrats — Clinton won Mississippi Tuesday and she still has hundreds more delegates — but it meant a lot of Sanders’ momentum.
In a statement issued Tuesday night, Sanders said he was “grateful to the people of Michigan for defying the pundits and pollsters” and delivering him a win.
“We came from 30 points down in Michigan and we’re seeing the same kind of come-from-behind momentum all across America,” he continued.
Sanders adds that the results “show that we are a national campaign. We already have won in the Midwest, New England and the Great Plains and as more people get to know more about who we are and what our views are, we’re going to do very well.”
Trump, the GOP front-runner, also won his party’s primary in Mississippi and Hawaii on Tuesday despite an onslaught of negative advertising from a late-coming “stop Trump” effort.
In a speech to supporters in Jupiter, Florida after winning the two primaries, he said his success was proof that advertising is less important than competence. He said there’s never been more money spent than what is being spent to take him down. And yet, he told his supporters, “only one person did well tonight: Donald Trump.”==Below, watch Trump’s address. App users can click here to watch.==
Michigan has 59 Republican delegates up for grabs. Trump won’t get all of them; they’ll be divided proportionally among candidates who get more than 15 percent of the vote.
Trump led with 37 percent of the vote, followed by Texas Sen. Ted Cruz with 25 percent, Ohio Gov. John Kasich was close behind with 24 percent of the vote and Florida Sen. Marco Rubio finished fourth in Michigan with nine percent.
Kasich’s third place finish wasn’t the boost he was looking for heading into next week’s crucial contest in his home state.
For Rubio, Tuesday marked the latest in a series of disappointing nights. He emerged from Michigan and Mississippi with no new delegates, a grim outcome for a candidate who has the overwhelming support from Republican senators, governors and other elected officials.
While a handful of recent losses to Cruz have raised questions about Trump’s durability, Tuesday’s contests marked another lost opportunity for rivals desperate to stop his march to the nomination. Next week’s winner-take-all contests in Ohio and Florida loom large as perhaps the last chance to block him short of a contested convention fight.
Overall, Trump leads the Republican field with 428 delegates, followed by Cruz with 315, Rubio with 151 and Kasich with 52. Winning the GOP nomination requires 1,237 delegates.
None of the Republican candidates were in Michigan as results came in, but they know the state’s delegates are important. All four visited the state in the week preceding the vote, with Kasich here nearly nonstop. It seems to have paid off.
“I think the more contact these folks have with voters, the more connected the voters feel to whoever their preferred candidate is and the more invested voters get. Polls are polls. Media is media. Human to human is something special,” Kent GOP Chairman John Inhulsen said.
The Kent County GOP held a results watch party at Peppino’s restaurant in downtown Grand Rapids Among the attendees were Michigan Lt. Gov. Brian Calley and U.S. Rep. Bill Huizenga, R-Zeeland.
Calley has expressed his support for Kasich.
“Over the course of the last week, John Kasich went from a distant fourth to a strong second,” Calley said. “And so I think it really … creates a lot of momentum for him as he heads into Ohio, where he has a great chance. It’s the first of the big winner-take-all states.”
But Calley said he would “support whatever Republican nominee comes out of this process.”
“I think it looks fairly unlikely to me that anybody will get enough delegates before the convention, but regardless, that’s our process.”
Huizenga, meanwhile, said he had hoped to see Rubio perform better, “but this is a long game.”
“I think this is all about delegate count and who’s going into the convention with the delegates,” he continued.
He also said he would support his party’s nominee no matter who that is — though Trump wouldn’t be his first choice.
“I don’t believe that Donald Trump is a conservative at his heart,” Huizenga said. “I believe he’s been pro-life when he’s needed to be pro-life and pro-choice when he’s needed to be pro-choice. I think he’s for private property rights when it’s his and he’s been for eminent domain when it’s been something that he’s wanted to get at. I think he’s been pro-traditional marriage, he’s been pro-gay marriage. He’s been all over the map.”
Speaking to an energized crowd Tuesday night, Kasich said he was “very pleased” with Michigan’s primary results and that voters are beginning to hear and reward his positive campaign as the race turns to his home state of Ohio.
Kasich has yet to win a state, but has taken second place in Massachusetts, Vermont and New Hampshire. Still, his campaign is continuing on with the belief that the primary calendar will become more favorable as more Midwestern and northern states begin voting.
Of his campaign, he says, “we struggled and worked in obscurity for a very long time.”
Clinton did not mention the primary contests in Michigan (which she lost) or Mississippi (which she won) during a rally in Cleveland Tuesday night, instead looking ahead. Saying she expects a “busy week” in Ohio, which holds its crucial winner-take-all primary on March 15, Clinton said that she was “excited to have the campaign building across this state.”
Clinton said she was proud of the campaigns she and Bernie Sanders were running and focused her criticism instead on the Republicans.
“America is great,” she told a cheering crowd, using GOP front-runner Donald Trump’s campaign mantra. She reiterated her call to “make it whole.”
“We are better than what we are being offered by the Republicans,” she said.
–24 Hour News 8’s Evan Dean and Leon Hendrix contributed to this report.