Biden takes big lead over Sanders in Michigan: poll

Former Vice President Joe Biden holds a double-digit lead over Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., on the eve of the Michigan primary, according to a new poll in the state with the most delegates up for grabs among Tuesday’s Democratic presidential nomination contests.

The former vice president tops Sanders 51 percent to 36 percent among likely Democratic presidential primary voters in Michigan, the Monmouth University survey released on Monday showed.

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The poll was conducted Thursday through Sunday, entirely after Biden’s sweeping victories last week on Super Tuesday, when he won 10 of the 14 state contests that were held and took a roughly 90-delegate lead over Sanders.

With 125 pledged delegates at stake, Michigan is the biggest prize among the six states holding primaries on Tuesday. Missouri, Mississippi, Washington state, Idaho and North Dakota also hold contests.

Biden leads Sanders by 14 percentage points among white voters in Michigan and tops Sanders by 17 points among non-white voters. The former vice president crushes the populist lawmaker and self-described democratic socialist by 38 points among voters 50 years old and over, while Sanders holds an 11-point advantage among those under age 50. Biden holds a 20-point lead among female voters, with men pulling for Sanders by 10 points.

Sanders, who’s making his second straight presidential run, defeated eventual nominee Hillary Clinton in 2016's primary in Michigan, in what was considered an upset win. That foreshadowed Clinton’s narrow loss to Donald Trump in the November 2016 general election in Michigan. Trump’s victory with working-class white voters in the state, as well as similar narrow wins in two other crucial Rust Belt states – Pennsylvania and Wisconsin – propelled him to the White House.

The delegate haul and political symbolism of Michigan make it the undisputed prize on Tuesday.

“Biden appears to have the advantage because he is doing well among some groups that Sanders won four years ago. But as we learned in 2016, Michigan can defy expectations,” Patrick Murray, director of the independent Monmouth University Polling Institute, said in a statement.

“The 2016 Michigan Democratic primary is considered to be the biggest polling miss of that cycle. Polls released in the week before the state primary showed Hillary Clinton with anywhere from a 10 to 27 point lead – Monmouth’s poll had her up by 13 points – but Sanders ended up winning the contest by just over a percentage point,” Murray explained.

One percent of those questioned in the new survey back the only other remaining candidate in the race — extreme long shot Rep. Tulsi Gabbard of Hawaii. Two percent are undecided and roughly 4 percent cast an early absentee ballot for one of the contenders who dropped out of the race since Biden’s landslide victory in the South Carolina primary nine days ago. Since then, most of Biden’s former rivals and much of the Democratic Party establishment have backed the former vice president.

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Biden’s 15-point lead over Sanders in the Monmouth poll is smaller than his 24-point lead in a Detroit Free Press survey conducted Wednesday through Friday. But it’s significantly larger than a 6-point advantage he held in a Detroit News/WDIV-TV survey conducted mostly before Super Tuesday.

In hypothetical general election matchups, Biden tops the president 48-41 percent, with Sanders holding a 46-41 percent advantage over Trump. Among voters who supported Trump in the 2016 general election, 90 percent say they intend to stick with the president his November.

“Michigan’s margin was razor thin in 2016 and the state is looking to be close again in 2020. There may be a little slippage in Trump’s vote from four years ago, but this is all within the margin of error right now,” Murray said.

The Monmouth University poll was conducted March 5-8, with 411 likely Democratic presidential primary voters in Michigan questioned by live telephone operators. The survey’s sampling error is 4.8 percentage points.