Sanders to call off Mississippi rally to campaign in Michigan: report

Sanders to call off Mississippi rally to campaign in Michigan: report
© Greg Nash

Sen. Bernie SandersBernie SandersWarren, Daines introduce bill honoring 13 killed in Kabul attack trillion tax hike the opposite of 'good investment' Progressive groups call for Puerto Rico Fiscal Control Board to be abolished MORE (I-Vt.) is canceling an appearance in Mississippi on Friday and will instead travel to Michigan, a sign that his campaign is pivoting its focus to the Midwest after taking a handful of losses in Southern states on Super Tuesday, The New York Times reports.

The Vermont senator was originally expected to appear at a rally in Jackson, Miss., on Friday afternoon alongside the city’s mayor, Chokwe Lumumba, who has endorsed Sanders’s presidential bid. 

Sanders's campaign did not respond to The Hill's request for comment about his reported travel plans.

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But the decision to campaign in Michigan suggests that Sanders sees a clearer path to the nomination in the Midwest, especially after a series of stinging defeats for the senator in the South in recent days. 

His chief rival, former Vice President Joe BidenJoe BidenOvernight Defense & National Security — Milley becomes lightning rod Democrats hope Biden can flip Manchin and Sinema On The Money — Presented by Wells Fargo — Democrats advance tax plan through hurdles MORE, scored a major win in the South Carolina primary last weekend and ran up the score against Sanders in the Southern states that held their nominating contests on Super Tuesday, including North Carolina and Alabama.

Two Midwestern states, Michigan and Missouri, will hold their primary contests on Tuesday. The former broke for Sanders in his 2016 primary bid against former Secretary of State Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonPennsylvania GOP authorizes subpoenas in election probe We must mount an all-country response to help our Afghan allies Biden nominates ex-State Department official as Export-Import Bank leader MORE, and he only narrowly lost Missouri that year.

But his prospects in those states appear increasingly tenuous as Biden has reclaimed his position as the primary race’s front-runner. A WDIV/Detroit News poll released on Tuesday showed Biden with a 6-point lead in Michigan. 

Meanwhile, in Missouri, polling has been scarce. But a Missouri Scout survey released in January showed Biden leading the pack by a wide, 25-point margin. 

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At the same time, the composition of both states’ electorates may work to Biden’s advantage. About one-fifth of Democratic primary voters in 2016 were black and about one-third identified as moderates, according to exit polling from both Michigan and Missouri.

Still, Sanders’s aides and allies have long argued that the populist message of his campaign, including his opposition to existing international trade deals, resonates particularly well in the Midwest, especially in Rust Belt states like Michigan. 

Speaking to reporters on Wednesday, Sanders acknowledged that Michigan is “an enormously important state” for his campaign.

Sanders likely faces long odds in Mississippi. He lost the state to Clinton in 2016 by more than 65 points, and returns from the first 18 nominating contests suggest that his standing among black voters hasn’t improved much over the past four years. That’s a particular liability for Sanders in Mississippi, where black voters are expected to make up a large majority of the primary electorate.