As Sen. Bernie Sanders builds momentum for another presidential run in 2020, he will come to Michigan this weekend – to the all-important county of Macomb – testing his strength as the professed only true Democratic socialist in the race.
Sanders, a Vermont independent, will hold rallies in the battleground states of the Midwest – Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, Ohio and Indiana, as well as Michigan – over the weekend. The senator will appear at Macomb Community College south campus in Warren on Saturday for an outdoor event that starts at 5 p.m.
In contrast to his 2016 challenge of Hillary Clinton in the Democratic primaries, Sanders now faces several fellow senators who have tried to duplicate his ultraliberal agenda.
In a statement, the campaign said the tour “will emphasize that Democrats’ clearest and strongest path to victory in 2020 runs through the Upper Midwest.” Sanders’ message will focus on President Donald Trump’s trade policies, strengthening labor unions and guaranteeing health insurance coverage through “Medicare for All.”
Sanders’ Michigan appearance comes just days after Macomb’s top official, County Executive Mark Hackel, said that a Sanders-type candidate cannot carry Macomb in 2020 when matched up against Trump.
A self-avowed “Purple Democrat,” Hackel said in a radio interview, “I don’t believe there is” a left-leaning candidate who could defeat the president in Macomb. Hackel said the Democrats need “more of a moderate candidate” — a reference to the top-tier candidates mimicking Sanders.
While several top Democrats in the crowded presidential contest – Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, Kamala Harris of California, Cory Booker of New Jersey and Kirsten Gillibrand of New York — have latched onto leftist policies, former vice president Joe Biden remains the frontrunner in national and Michigan polls though he has not officially announced his 2020 candidacy.
Over the past week, Biden, viewed as the top choice of Democratic moderates, has been trying to fend off allegations that his “touchy-feely” approach toward interacting with women amounts to sexual harassment.
A poll done by Emerson College in Massachusetts this month showed Biden leading the Democratic pack in Michigan with 40 percent support while Sanders stood at a distant second with 23 percent.
A separate poll last month by Lansing-based EPIC-MRA, found that nearly half of respondents in Michigan said they will definitely vote to replace Trump and another 16 percent said they will consider voting for someone else. Only 31 percent told pollsters they will definitely vote to re-elect the president.
What’s more, the survey revealed that among independents, a key voting bloc, 44 percent said they will definitely vote for someone other than Trump and 27 percent indicated they will consider backing another candidate. Only 18 percent said they would definitely vote to re-elect the president.
Macomb has received national attention since the 2016 election because of Trump’s 48,000-vote margin in the county, which secured his surprise victory in Michigan and played a major role in his capture of the presidency.
Sander’s perceived 2020 strength in Michigan is based on his stunning win over Hillary Clinton in the March 2016 presidential primary. However, in Macomb County, with just a 36 percent voter turnout, Sanders lost to Clinton by a 49-47 percent margin in the primary election.
With Michigan labeled as a prime tossup state, Beto O’Rourke of Texas, a former congressman, campaigned in Michigan in March during the first week of his presidential campaign, mostly in the Detroit area, including one stop in Macomb. Gillibrand made a couple of appearances also in southeast Michigan that nearly overlapped with O’Rourke’s campaign schedule.
With nine months until the primary election season begins in Iowa, and with the Democratic field potentially growing to 20 candidates or more, one thing is clear: Michigan is on every candidate’s radar. The Great Lakes State will be flooded with presidential contenders from now until the Michigan primary on March 10.
Doors will open for the Sanders MCC event at 3:30 p.m. and the rally will start at 5 p.m. The gathering will take place outdoors at Parking Lot 15, located on Bunert Road, south of 12 Mile and west of Hayes Road.