Biden has big lead over Sanders in Tuesday's make-or-break Michigan primary, polls say

Key Points
  • Joe Biden leads Bernie Sanders in Tuesday's important Michigan presidential primary, according to recent polls. 
  • Sanders considers carrying the state, which he won in 2016, important as he tries to keep up with Biden in the pledged delegate race. 
  • Hillary Clinton led Michigan polls by a wide margin in 2016, before Sanders narrowly won the state.
Democratic presidential candidate and former Vice President Joe Biden arrives for a visit at Detroit One Coney Island Restaurant on August 01, 2019 in Detroit, Michigan.
Scott Olson | Getty Images

Joe Biden leads Bernie Sanders by a comfortable margin in a series of Michigan polls released before the state's pivotal Democratic primary on Tuesday. 

The Vermont senator has looked for a win in Michigan as he tries to keep pace with the former vice president in the pledged delegate race and stem Biden's rise after a strong Super Tuesday showing earlier this month. Biden appears well positioned to carry Michigan, a delegate-rich state that Sanders has focused on winning in recent days, according to surveys. 

A Monmouth University poll released Monday found Biden leading Sanders 51% to 36% among likely Democratic primary voters. It follows surveys from Mitchell Research and Epic-MRA and the Detroit Free Press in recent days showing a more than 20 percentage point lead for Biden in Michigan.

A Biden victory of that magnitude would deal a potentially crippling blow to Sanders' chances. Sanders won Michigan in 2016. He fell behind Biden in the pledged delegate race after Super Tuesday this year. He also could lose a few of the other five states voting Tuesday, particularly Mississippi and Missouri, by big margins. 

Michigan awards 125 pledged delegates, the most among the states voting Tuesday. Four big states will then hold primaries on March 17. Polling indicates Biden is poised to win that day's biggest delegate haul, Florida, by a healthy margin. 

There's reason to be skeptical of Michigan polling. Surveys showed Hillary Clinton beating Sanders by an average of about 20 percentage points in the 2016 primary. Sanders narrowly won Michigan. 

"Biden appears to have the advantage because he is doing well among some groups that Sanders won four years ago. But as we learned in 2016, Michigan can defy expectations," Patrick Murray, director of the Monmouth University Polling Institute, said in a statement.

A shrinking primary field has appeared to help Biden in Michigan polls. Former rivals Sen. Amy Klobuchar, former South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg and former New York Mayor Mike Bloomberg all dropped out of the race and endorsed Biden this month. 

The Monmouth poll gives fodder for both Biden and Sanders as they each make the case that they are best suited to defeat President Donald Trump in November. In hypothetical Michigan general election matchups, Biden and Sanders hold 7- and 5-percentage point leads, respectively, over the president.

Michigan was one of the states that narrowly helped to send Trump to the White House in 2016.  

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