Clinton, Trump eye Michigan wins as candidates face first big Midwest test

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Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump look to rebound from weekend setbacks with victories in Tuesday's Michigan primary, the first big industrial state to be contested in the 2016 presidential race.

Squeezed between high-profile Super Tuesday and high-stakes primaries next week in Florida and Ohio, Tuesday's contests are unlikely to dramatically reshape either party's primaries. But with 150 Republican and 179 Democratic delegates at stake, the races offer an opportunity for the front-runners to pad leads and rivals to catch up.

In addition to Michigan's primaries, both parties will hold their primary in Mississippi Tuesday, with Republicans also caucusing in Idaho and voting in the Hawaii primary.

But Michigan is the night's crown jewel in terms of delegates. Fifty-nine are at stake in the Republican race, while 130 will be awarded on the Democratic side.

While Trump has stunned Republicans with his broad appeal, he's forged a particularly strong connection with blue-collar white voters. With an eye on the general election, he's argued he could put Midwestern, Democratic-leaning industrial states such as Michigan and Wisconsin in play for Republicans.

A Monmouth University poll released Monday showed Trump winning 36 percent of likely GOP primary voters, 13 percentage points ahead of Texas Sen. Ted Cruz. Ohio Gov. John Kasich, who said Michigan was part of his "home court" last week, polled a close third with 21 percent of the vote, while Florida Sen. Marco Rubio placed fourth with 13 percent of the likely vote.

Victories by Cruz in Kansas and Maine have threatened to make the Republican race a two-man sprint to the finish. But Kasich and Rubio are holding out hope they can win their winner-take-all home states March 15.

Entering Tuesday, Trump leads the Republican race with 384 delegates, followed by Cruz with 300, Rubio with 151 delegates and Kasich with 37. Winning the GOP nomination requires 1,237 delegates.

"It's not just the whole country that's watching Michigan — now the world's beginning to watch," Kasich said Monday during a campaign stop in the state. "You can help me send a message about positive, about vision, about hope, about putting us together."

Rubio sought a boost in Tuesday's contests from Mitt Romney, the 2012 GOP nominee. Romney has recently become an outspoken critic of Trump and recorded a phone call on Rubio's behalf in which he warns Republicans that if the real estate mogul wins the nomination, "the prospects for a safe and prosperous future would be greatly diminished."

Romney has not endorsed a candidate in the GOP primary, but clearly says in the phone recording that he's speaking on behalf of the Rubio campaign. A Romney spokeswoman said the former Massachusetts governor has offered to help Rubio, Kasich and Cruz in any way he can.

During a stop at a catfish restaurant on Monday in Mississippi, Cruz said the current vacancy on the Supreme Court means Republicans can't take a chance on Trump.

"He's been supporting left-wing politicians for 40 years," Cruz said.

On the Democratic side, Clinton boosted her delegate lead over Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders over the weekend, as a win in Saturday's Louisiana primary canceled out wins for Sanders in the Kansas, Nebraska and Maine caucuses. The Monmouth University poll gave Clinton a 13-percentage point lead over the self-described democratic socialist among likely voters.

Ahead of Tuesday's two Democratic contests, Clinton had accumulated 1,130 delegates and Sanders 499, including superdelegates. Democrats need 2,383 delegates to win the nomination.

In an effort to boost his standing in Michigan, Sanders has repeatedly accused Clinton of being disingenuous when she asserted that he opposed the bailout of carmakers General Motors and Chrysler during the Great Recession.

Sanders defended his voting record on the issue again during a Fox News town hall in Detroit Monday night.

"What I did not vote for was the bailout of Wall Street. … She did vote for that,” Sanders said, referring to Clinton’s time as a New York senator.

Sanders and Clinton both voted in favor of an auto bailout bill in 2008, but it failed to clear the Senate, prompting then-President George W. Bush to announce about a week later that the federal government would step in with $17.4 billion in federal aid to help the carmakers survive and restructure. The last $4 billion was contingent on the release of the second installment of the Wall Street bailout funds.

Sanders did vote for a 2009 motion to block the release of those funds, though the measure was defeated by 45 Democrats, including Clinton, and a handful of Republicans.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.