MIAMI — It doesn’t take long for a Bernie Sanders supporter to invoke the Big Upset.
“Look what’s happened in Michigan,” Florida U.S. Rep. Alan Grayson said.
“Michigan was a real breakthrough in our campaign,” said Jeff Weaver, Sanders’ campaign manager.
“Guess what? We won in Michigan,” Sanders told more than 5,000 at a rally in Florida, the biggest prize in the next round of primaries on Tuesday when more than 700 Democratic Party delegates from five states are at stake.
Sanders’ victory last week in Michigan over Hillary Clinton seemed to breathe new life into his insurgent campaign for president.
Clinton, the former secretary of state, racked up a daunting delegate lead over Sanders with a string of victories mostly in the diverse South and West. But Sanders’ surprise victory last week in Michigan, where he was trailing in the polls, could reverberate in the delegate-rich industrial Midwest states up for grabs Tuesday.
While a victory for Sanders in Florida — where 246 delegates will be awarded on a proportional basis — could be devastating for Clinton’s campaign, prospects for the Vermont U.S. senator could be stronger in Illinois, Missouri and Ohio. His team also sees potential in North Carolina, where it’s making a late push.
“We can compete in Illinois, in Missouri, in Ohio. And don’t count out North Carolina,” Weaver said. “The textile industry has been destroyed. The furniture business has moved to China. And it’s because of trade deals that Clinton supported.”
That line of attack hit a nerve in Michigan, where Sanders assailed Clinton’s support for the North American Free Trade Agreement — the 1990s deal embraced by her husband when he was president — and her initial backing of the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement assembled last year.
An apparent Clinton stronghold
Sanders faces an uphill battle in Florida, where an older and more diverse voting base gives Clinton an advantage. She won roughly seven in 10 Hispanics in Texas, where she trounced Sanders earlier this month, and she hopes for a repeat in Florida, where roughly one-quarter of the population is Hispanic.
At Wednesday’s debate in Miami, both Clinton and Sanders pledged not to deport children or adults without criminal records. In one gripping moment, she told a mother of five she would help families that have been torn apart by deportation.
“Please know how brave I think you are, coming here with your children to tell your story,” she told the mother. “This is an incredible act of courage that I’m not sure many people really understand.”
Clinton’s surrogates, who have fanned out across the state, present her platform as a more measured and realistic alternative to Sanders’ calls for a “revolution” that would provide Medicare for all and free tuition for public college education.
“Dreamers don’t want revolutions. Dreamers want results,” said U.S. Labor Secretary Tom Perez, a Clinton supporter. “They want their sons to get opportunities to be able to realize their dreams. The perfect is the enemy to progress. Latinos want progress. When I talk to Latinos about the prospect of tearing up Obamacare, they are totally confused. They want candidates with progressive results that can deliver.”
Sanders, who is fueled by steady donations from small-donor supporters, told a crowd of 9,000 supporters in Tampa that he’ll continue keeping pace with Clinton in upcoming primaries, and that he will convince the superdelegates — party elites who overwhelmingly favor Clinton so far — that he “is the strongest candidate to beat Donald Trump.”
And his supporters look no further than Michigan for inspiration.
“He proved everyone wrong in Michigan,” said Ahmed Alvee, a Florida college student who supports Sanders. “And he can do it again.”
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