Bernie Sanders backers mobilize early in hopes of Michigan primary repeat

Supporters who helped Bernie Sanders win Michigan's Democratic presidential primary in 2016 have reactivated operations and quickly established what they call an unrivaled early ground game in the state.

But as Sanders returns to Detroit this month for the second set of Democratic debates, some of his most ardent fans fear the unusually large field of candidates — and particularly Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts — will split the progressive vote and complicate his prospects for a Michigan repeat.

But supporters have reason to worry, said Democratic strategist T.J. Bucholz of Lansing-based Vanguard Public Affairs. Establishment favorite Joe Biden has deep union ties that could appeal to Michigan voters Sanders courted last time as he criticized international trade deals, Bucholz noted.

Sanders “still has a lot of resonance” with grassroots activists in Michigan, but there are “a lot more options in this cycle than last time, when basically it was Hillary versus Bernie, hyper-progressives versus more moderate members of the party,” he said. “I think the chances of Bernie cutting through are harder for him.”

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