Watching the March 8 Primary Results

There are two states that matter most on the primary calendar Tuesday night, Michigan and Mississippi. They carry the most delegates and they will answer important questions for both Democrats and Republicans.

Mississippi will test whether front-runners Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump can maintain the momentum they have shown so far in southern states. Michigan tests how the Democratic and GOP fields perform in the industrial Midwest.

As you watch the results Tuesday night the summaries and maps below will help explain and make sense of the numbers.



The Republicans: There are three big counties to watch for the GOP. First, watch Macomb, the light orange county north of Detroit in the east side (a Middle Suburb). Macomb was the birthplace of Reagan Democrats and should be good for Mr. Trump. Look for big margins for him there if he’s doing well.

Ingham County, a College Town in tan in the middle of the state, is home to the state capital. Up to this weekend those state capital counties had been good for Sen. Marco Rubio. With Mr. Rubio struggling in the polls, does the establishment vote go to Ohio Gov. John Kasich? If Mr. Kasich is going to have a good night he probably needs Ingham.

Ottawa County, a social conservative hub in the west of the state, has one of the largest evangelical Christian populations. That, plus higher incomes and education levels, say this should be good for Texas Sen. Ted Cruz. He’ll want to win here by a good margin to have a good night.


The Democrats: One big test for Mrs. Clinton is the margins she draws out of big urban counties with large African American populations. Keep an eye on Wayne, the Big City county that is home to Detroit (in pink), as well as Genesee and Saginaw, the Middle Suburb homes of Flint and Saginaw (in light orange).

If Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders is going to have a good night he’ll want good margins out of the College Towns in the state (in tan). Watch Washtenaw (University of Michigan), Kalamazoo (Western Michigan U.) and Isabella (Central Michigan U.). Ingham, which is home to the state capital of Lansing and Michigan State U., would be a big win for him, but probably a stretch.


Republicans: One of the most interesting findings of the GOP race so far has been Mr. Trump’s success in communities with large African American populations. In those counties he doesn’t win black voters (there simply aren’t many in Republican nominating contests), rather he wins white voters who live in communities with large African American populations. Baring that in mind, keep an eye on the African American South counties (in green) that dominate the western side of Mississippi. This should be Trump country.

Mr. Cruz’s hopes in the state likely hinge on the Evangelical Hub counties (in purple) and Rankin County, an Exurb (in yellow), that is next to the state capital of Jackson and has a large evangelical population and higher incomes. The test may be whether lower-income evangelicals vote for him or go for Mr. Trump. In earlier contests those lower-income evangelicals went for Mr. Trump.

Democrats: For Mrs. Clinton, African American voters have been her firewall, giving her huge margins of victory. Mississippi’s African American South counties (in green) should give her a big win here. She’s also won in the Urban Suburbs (dark orange) and Exurbs (yellow) in other states. Those are big population centers in Mississippi.

The state doesn’t set up as well for Mr. Sanders. He does well in rural counties with large white populations such as the counties the ACP calls Rural Middle America. That was one reason for his big wins in states such as Kansas and Oklahoma this weekend. But those places are in short supply in Mississippi. The state is also light on his other big strength, the College Towns (in tan). There are the homes of the University of Mississippi (Lafayette) and Mississippi State U. (Oktibbeha). But the total enrollment of the schools is less than 50,000 total and they have good sized African American enrollment. Mr. Sanders hasn’t done as well with those voters.

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