Bernie Sanders was set to take the stage at a Fox News Town Hall at 6:30 p.m. ET in Detroit, Mich., as the struggling Democratic presidential candidate hopes for a win in Tuesday’s do-or-die primary in the state despite worrying poll numbers.
Bret Baier and Martha MacCallum will moderate Sanders’ second Fox News Town Hall of the election cycle. At last April’s event, a combative Sanders made no apologizes for his wealth, and acknowledged that his plans would lead to tax hikes for many Americans.
Idaho, Mississippi, Missouri, North Dakota and Washington will also hold primaries on Tuesday, and a combined 352 delegates will be at stake. Michigan’s 125 pledged delegates are perhaps the day’s biggest prize and offer Sanders an opportunity to cut down front-runner Joe Biden’s current 91-delegate lead.
Sanders won the Michigan primary over Hillary Clinton in 2016 after taking a beating on Super Tuesday, but this year, surveys show him down by as many as two-dozen points. Biden tops Sanders 51 percent to 36 percent among likely Democratic presidential primary voters in Michigan, a Monmouth University survey released on Monday showed.
An outstanding question going into Tuesday is whether Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, who dropped out of the race last week, will endorse Biden or Sanders. So far, she’s declined to back either, an especially frustrating development for Sanders, who could use Warren’s help in unifying progressives in much the same way Biden has been able to rally moderates.
Democratic presidential candidate U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., speaks during a campaign rally at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, Mich., Sunday, March 8, 2020. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)
Sanders has scoffed at suggestions he could drop out if he doesn’t win Michigan, but his travel schedule underscores its importance. He canceled a trip to Mississippi and instead made five campaign stops across Michigan since Friday. And he was holding a roundtable in Detroit on Monday with health experts to discuss the spread of the new coronavirus.
Sanders has accused Biden of relying on billionaires to finance his campaign but also says he’s now running against “the Democratic establishment.” The senator told Fox News on Sunday that he’d win Michigan and repeated that at a rally in Grand Rapids, but added the major caveat for supporters that he’d only pull it off “if we stick together, we bring our friends out to vote.”
Sanders won’t say if he’s personally lobbying Warren for her endorsement. He did manage to secure the backing of Jesse Jackson, who said it was no time for centrist compromise.
“With the exception of Native Americans, African-Americans are the people who are most behind socially and economically in the United States and our needs are not moderate,” Jackson said at Sanders’ Grand Rapids rally. “A people far behind cannot catch up choosing the most moderate path.”
Still, one of Sanders’ highest-profile supporters, New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, struck a far more conciliatory tone addressing 10,000-plus on the campus of the University of Michigan on Sunday night, saying, “In order for us to win, we have to grow.”
“We must be inclusive. We must bring more people into this movement,” she said, urging Sanders supporters to shed “cynicism and exclusion” and “turn with an embracing posture, where all people are welcome in a people’s movement.”
Sanders is hoping to do well in Washington state on Tuesday, but could face hurdles in Mississippi and Missouri. Sanders’ team acknowledges he will also struggle in next week’s Florida primary, where the senator’s past defense of Fidel Castro looms large. He also could face long odds in Ohio and Illinois — especially if he underperforms in Michigan. Both of those states also vote March 17.
The wild card next week could be Arizona, where Sanders will be counting on strong Latino support, which lifted him to victory in California.
The intricate arithmetic of how delegates are won makes it possible Tuesday for a winning candidate to reap a bigger haul of delegates with a smaller margin of victory than any other night. This gives Biden an opportunity to greatly increase his lead over Sanders or for Sanders to close the gap.
Delegates are awarded proportionally mostly in congressional districts. And nearly two-thirds of Tuesday districts have odd amounts of delegates up for grabs.
When there is an odd number of delegates available, that means one of the two candidates will get more delegates. In districts with an even number of delegates, proportional distribution means that in close races, both candidates get the same number of delegates and that makes it more difficult for Sanders to catch Biden. After March 17, most delegates are in districts with an even number of delegates.
Monday’s Sanders Fox News Town Hall will be the eleventh town hall of the current election season hosted by Fox News and the tenth with a Democratic presidential candidate. FNC’s first town hall with Sanders holds the record for the most-watched town hall of the 2020 election cycle with nearly 2.6 million viewers.
Recent Fox News town halls were held with then-Democratic presidential candidates Mike Bloomberg and Sen. Amy Klobuchar, both co-moderated by Baier and MacCallum, as well as former Mayor Pete Buttigieg, moderated by Chris Wallace.
Fox News’ Brian Flood and The Associated Press contributed to this report.