Surprise defeat in Michigan highlights Clinton's weak spots
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Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonThe Memo: Trump furor stokes fears of unrest Bloomberg rolls out M ad buy to boost Biden in Florida Hillicon Valley: Productivity, fatigue, cybersecurity emerge as top concerns amid pandemic | Facebook critics launch alternative oversight board | Google to temporarily bar election ads after polls close MORE’s surprise loss in Michigan on Tuesday night highlights her electoral vulnerabilities in the upcoming general election.

The Democratic presidential front-runner is struggling to attract young voters, exit polls showed.


She also is weak with white men, including blue-collar Rust Belt voters who will be coveted in the swing states of Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan and Wisconsin in November.

Looming even larger is an overall enthusiasm gap between her supporters and rival Bernie SandersBernie SandersTrump, Biden will not shake hands at first debate due to COVID-19 Sanders tells Maher 'there will be a number of plans' to remove Trump if he loses Sirota reacts to report of harassment, doxing by Harris supporters MORE’s — and perhaps also those of GOP front-runner Donald TrumpDonald John TrumpBiden says voters should choose who nominates Supreme Court justice Trump, Biden will not shake hands at first debate due to COVID-19 Pelosi: Trump Supreme Court pick 'threatens' Affordable Care Act MORE.

Clinton maintains a sizable delegate lead in the Democratic primary over Sanders; she ultimately took home more delegates than her rival on Tuesday night because of her big win in Mississippi.

But many Democrats—including her own allies — are worried about whether this will translate into victory or a defeat in the fall.

Trump won Michigan’s GOP primary with 37 percent support, largely by tapping into blue-collar voters unhappy with the economy.

“It’s a legitimate challenge,” one longtime Clinton adviser acknowledged.

No Republican presidential hopeful has won Michigan or Pennsylvania since 1988. Ronald Reagan is the last Republican to win Wisconsin.

Still, both parties are wondering whether Trump could be different. 

The adviser said Trump “could put states in play that usually aren’t for Republicans.”

Democratic strategist Jamal Simmons said the real concern for Democrats isn’t losing white blue-collar workers. It’s making people more enthusiastic about the former secretary of State’s campaign by inspiring and attracting young voters, who do appear to be excited about Sanders.

“I’m more worried about that more than I am in anything else in this campaign,” Simmons said. “They need to work on young African-Americans in particular. They need to get those voters registered and turned out.”

Trump, Simmons added, “is going to bring in new people so we have to match him with our new people.”

Two new polls out this week show that Clinton would prevail over Trump in a general election match-up. An NBC/Wall Street Journal poll shows Clinton beating Trump 51 percent to 38 percent. Meanwhile, a Washington Post-ABC News poll shows the Democratic front-runner besting the businessman 50 percent to 41 percent.

Sanders and his surrogates argue that he would be a stronger Democratic candidate against Trump. The NBC poll found the Vermont senator beating Trump by a wider margin, 55 percent to 37 percent.

“The fact Clinton continues to lose states, as well as key elements of the Obama coalition she’s trying to recreate, is a major warning sign for her viability in a general election if she becomes the nominee,” Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus said in a statement on Wednesday.

Trump’s act has divided Republicans, with rivals Sens. Ted CruzRafael (Ted) Edward CruzSenate GOP set to vote on Trump's Supreme Court pick before election Supreme Court fight pushes Senate toward brink Crenshaw looms large as Democrats look to flip Texas House seat MORE (Texas) and Marco RubioMarco Antonio RubioSunday shows preview: Lawmakers prepare for SCOTUS confirmation hearings before election GOP lawmakers distance themselves from Trump comments on transfer of power McConnell pushes back on Trump: 'There will be an orderly transition' MORE (Fla.) arguing he will lead the party to defeat.

But he has also been the spark plug of an energetic GOP campaign that has won high ratings for debates and large turnouts on the road.

“While Clinton and Sanders struggle to motivate their base, Republican turnout is soaring,” Priebus said on Wednesday.

Clinton campaign manager Robby Mook acknowledged that the Michigan loss shows his team needs to “work even harder to amplify” Clinton's economic argument and make sure it is resonating with the electorate.

In Michigan, Sanders seemed to hurt Clinton by pointing to her changing position on the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal, which she spoke highly of as a member of the Obama administration but now opposes.

Conceding that each campaign faces “headwinds” with various voting blocs, Mook said that Clinton understands that “there's a lot of frustration out there” with young people and that it has only strengthened his team's resolve to fight harder for their votes.

A big difference between supporters of Clinton and Sanders, Simmons said, is that those with the insurgent candidate appear to believe they are part of the revolution Sanders frequently discusses.

“If you're a Bernie voter, you're voting for something. You're a movement voter. I don't think he has a lot of casual voters,” he said.

If Clinton can lock up the Democratic nomination, her party will surely work to demonize Trump — just as Republicans will look to demonize the Democratic nominee.

Both sides will have ammunition given the long public histories of both candidates.

The longtime adviser predicted that if Clinton faces Trump, she will “combine enthusiasm that people do have for her with enthusiasm of people who very much do not want Trump.”