Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) seemed close to one of the biggest upsets in the history of presidential primaries on Tuesday night when he overcame a roughly 30-point deficit in the polls to edge former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in late results.
With 31% of the precincts reporting as of 9:10 p.m. ET, Sanders led Clinton 50.9% to 47.1%. That lead weakened once precincts in heavily-black areas of Detroit began to report, with Clinton winning nearly 60% of the vote. But his lead steadied again, with Sanders at 50.6% and Clinton at 47.5% after 71% of the precincts had been counted. And then, later, at 50.4% for Sanders and 47.6% for Clinton with 92% of the precincts counted.
Faces at Clinton’s victory rally looked troubled, with supporters apparently watching the returns as she spoke.
— Joel Pollak (@joelpollak) March 9, 2016
The last two public polls released before the election showed Clinton ahead by margins of 37% and 27%. The RealClearPolitics average of polls had Clinton ahead by 21.4%. Only one poll out of dozens had shown Sanders within single digits of Clinton in Michigan, and that poll, an outlier, was taken six months ago, in September.
Nate Silver of fivethirtyeight.com called it “among the greatest polling errors in primary history.” But polling over several months that shows the same result cannot be called an error. The voters simply changed their minds.
Clinton is still, by far, the favorite to win the nomination. She enjoys a wide lead in delegates and a massive lead in superdelegates, adding to her lead by trouncing Sanders in Mississippi, 82.9% to 16.2%.
Still, with his historic results in Michigan, Sanders showed that he does not intend to go quietly.