Sanders wins Michigan, CNN projects

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WASHINGTON – Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders has won the Michigan Democratic primary, according to a CNN projection.

Donald Trump will win the Republican primaries in Michigan and Mississippi, according to CNN projections, crucial victories that propel him closer to the GOP presidential nomination.

Trump’s strong performance — he has now won 14 states — suggests that his capacity to win is undiminished despite a barrage of attacks by his rivals and the Republican establishment on his personality, his sometimes vulgar campaign style and his fitness to serve as president.

In a news conference Tuesday night, Trump said the results were a repudiation of “so many horrible, horrible things” said about him over the last week, which he said added up to “$38 million worth of horrible lies.”

He added: “It shows you how brilliant the public is because they knew they were lies.”

The contests come on what is being dubbed Super Tuesday 2. Republicans are competing in four states — Michigan, Mississippi, Idaho, and Hawaii — with 150 delegates up for grabs. Democrats are fighting for 166 delegates in Michigan and Mississippi.

Texas Sen. Ted Cruz was seeking a strong showing to bolster his claim that he is the only Republican who can stop Trump, and Florida Sen. Marco Rubio is desperate for some evidence to counter an impression that his campaign is fading.

Clinton’s Mississippi win

Earlier Tuesday, CNN projected Clinton will win the Mississippi Democratic primary, a victory that consolidates her dominance of Southern primary states with high numbers of African-American voters. That’s a constituency with which Sanders, who has performed better in less-diverse states, struggles.

But the Sanders campaign is determined to show in Michigan that it can compete in the delegate-rich states in the Midwest, ahead of showdowns in Illinois, Ohio and Wisconsin looming in the coming weeks.

Clinton holds an overall lead of around 200 pledged delegates over Sanders, whose spirited campaign has enlivened grass-roots Democrats and tugged the former secretary of state to the left on some key issues.

While a Michigan defeat would not likely seriously dent Clinton’s lead in delegates, it would represent a speed bump in her efforts to pull away from Sanders.

It would also raise fresh questions about Clinton’s struggles to connect with the Democratic base on economic issues, as she faces constant attacks from Sanders on her past links to Wall Street.

Sanders acknowledged that the Michigan vote was close Tuesday night, but thanked voters for “repudiating” polls that indicated Clinton had stronger support in the state.

“What tonight means is that the Bernie Sanders campaign, the people’s revolution that we’re talking about, the political revolution that we’re talking about, is strong in every part of the country,” Sanders said. “And, frankly, we believe our strongest areas are yet to happen.”

‘Don’t know how it’s going to go’

Clinton communications director Jennifer Palmieri told reporters, “We don’t know how it is going to go.”

“But our strategy,” she said, “is built around accruing delegates, and we will come out on top on delegates.”

Clinton and Sanders have clashed repeatedly in recent days over issues that are vital to Michigan voters. Clinton hammered her rival over a vote against a bailout for the U.S. auto industry in 2009, while the Vermont senator lambasted her over her past support for free-trade deals which he said sowed ruin in the Midwest.

Clinton’s team is shaken by the close race that’s emerging in Michigan, sources told CNN’s Jeff Zeleny. Michigan Democrats who are aligned with Clinton’s campaign do not believe that Clinton’s attack on Sanders’ position on the auto bailout worked as they intended.

There is second guessing among some Democrats that some people in Clinton’s organization started looking beyond the primary to a general election contest against Trump.

“They didn’t take Sanders for granted as much as voters,” said one top Democrat close to the campaign.

“The sooner I could become your nominee,” Clinton told supporters on Monday, “the more I could begin to turn my attention to the Republicans.”

By Stephen Collinson