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Of The 6 States That Vote In Tuesday Primaries, Michigan Is The Focus

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

Well, last week, on Super Tuesday, Joe Biden did well - so well, in fact, that the race for the Democratic nomination is now basically down to him and Bernie Sanders. Well, tomorrow we have another important Tuesday - six more contests, including in Missouri, and that's where we find NPR political correspondent Scott Detrow. Hi there, Scott.

SCOTT DETROW, BYLINE: Hey. Good morning.

GREENE: All right. So what's the landscape tomorrow? And what are you watching for?

DETROW: So we've got 352 delegates up for grabs - not quite super; still a lot, still a significant day...

GREENE: Almost super.

DETROW: ...On the primary calendar, you know, big, important.

GREENE: Yeah.

DETROW: Important Tuesday, we can call it that. A couple states that I think could be good for Bernie Sanders, but there are some questions, and that's in Washington state and Idaho. Now, these are two states that Sanders won in 2016, but they have shifted from caucuses to primaries. Bernie Sanders really pushed the Democratic Party to move away from the caucus system. Ironically, in these states that used to be caucuses and are now primaries, he's had a harder time winning or has been losing them. So that's a trend to watch.

Also, Mississippi that's a state with a large population of African American voters, voters that Joe Biden has done very well in. That's a place that he could run up a big victory on Bernie Sanders. There is also voting in North Dakota and Missouri, where I am right now. But the big state to watch for a whole bunch of reasons is Michigan.

GREENE: What are those reasons? Why is that so important?

DETROW: First of all, the delegate count - there's simply the most delegates at stake, 125 delegates. But there's huge symbolic importance as well. Michigan is the biggest win of Bernie Sanders' 2016 run for president, a huge upset against Hillary Clinton that really fueled his campaign for months. So if he doesn't have a win again, that says a lot about the trajectory of Bernie Sanders' campaign this time around. But also, Michigan is one of those three states that has just loomed over the Democratic Party ever since they lost it to Donald Trump in 2016. Michigan, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin - these are the states the general election will be all about, and this is the first contest in any of them.

So you've had Bernie Sanders doing event after event in Michigan. He was in Ann Arbor last night with Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. He had been endorsed by Jesse Jackson earlier in the day. And you could hear him have a lot more of a reflective tone than he usually does on the campaign trail.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

BERNIE SANDERS: We are capable of making sweeping change if we have the courage to do it.

(CHEERING)

DETROW: So even though he's campaigning in St. Louis this morning, this week has been all about Michigan, to the point of canceling events in three other states to make sure he has more time on the ground there. He'll be back this afternoon.

GREENE: Scott, the race changed so much a week ago, like, Super Tuesday. I mean, now that it's just been mostly Biden and Bernie Sanders, what - I mean, have things changed as you've been watching this campaign play out?

DETROW: A lot. Joe Biden keeps getting endorsement after endorsement after endorsement. But interestingly, his campaign has really just been rolling those out, having some of these people who are new to the Biden campaign cause campaign for him. He hasn't been doing a ton of events. He'll actually only be in Michigan for the first time this week this morning, today. It's almost like a team that has a big fourth quarter lead that is just trying to run out the clock.

Sanders will be back in Michigan, as I said. He's switching things up a little bit, too. He's going to hold a roundtable on coronavirus in Detroit today. Typically, Bernie Sanders gives the same speech everywhere he goes. So this is an acknowledgment that this is an enormous story that the presidential campaign needs to respond to, that candidates need to talk about and show some leadership on.

GREENE: All right, NPR's Scott Detrow ahead of another big voting day tomorrow. He's in St. Louis, Mo., one of the states that will be voting. Scott, thanks.

DETROW: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.