Clinton vs. Sanders: What Michigan means for Ohio and beyond

Story highlights

  • After losing Michigan, Hillary Clinton looks to win Ohio and Missouri
  • Clinton will likely need a new message in those states
  • Meanwhile, Sanders' win could give him a fundraising boost

(CNN)After losing unexpectedly to Bernie Sanders in Michigan, Hillary Clinton must now win over voters in nearby Ohio and Missouri next week to continue on the path to becoming the Democratic presidential nominee.

Clinton will likely need to find a new message in those Rust Belt states, after her positioning herself as a defender of the auto industry fell short in Michigan. She tried to paint her rival as voting against the auto bailout, an argument which didn't ring true. Sanders decried trade deals as hurting manufacturing and the middle class.
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    "Many of the same issues that resonated in Michigan with Democrats there are going to resonate in Ohio," said Jeff Weaver, Sanders' campaign manager. "The auto industry there was also severely damaged. There are a lot of people in Ohio who are hurting. That's an industrial state. Same in Illinois. Same in Missouri."

    On to Ohio

    Sanders will now take his anti-trade deal message to Ohio, Missouri and Illinois, which hold primaries next week. Each have solid manufacturing and union bases.
    Clinton, meanwhile, will discuss her plans to create jobs and increase incomes on the trail, said Karen Finney, the campaign's senior spokeswoman on CNN.
    Finney also tried to blunt some of the Sanders' campaign criticism over trade, saying Clinton did vote against certain agreements when she was a New York senator.
    The two Democrats will have another chance to win over voters Wednesday night when they go head-to-head in a Univision debate in Florida that will be simulcast on CNN.
    In Michigan, it's clear Sanders' messaging hit home: The Vermont senator led her among voters who believe trade hurts American jobs by 56% to 43%, according to exit polls. He also beat Clinton among union households by 49% to 47% Tuesday.
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    Delegate race

    Sanders' Michigan win should give him a big fundraising boost as he continues his quest to unseat Clinton. But he still faces substantial hurdles -- he only picked up 67 delegates Tuesday to Clinton's 84, thanks to her decisive Mississippi victory.
    Overall, she now has 1,234 of the 2,383 delegates needed to win the nomination versus Sanders' 567.
    The Clinton campaign made note Wednesday of her solid lead.
    "We are quite far ahead when we talk about pledged delegates," Finney said. "At the end of the day, this nomination is about winning delegates."
    Clinton is currently ahead of Sanders 63% to 33% in Ohio, a new CNN/ORC poll shows. But Weaver pointed to polls prior to the Michigan primary also showed the former secretary of state far ahead.
    "The race is much closer than that," he said.

    Clinton's firewall

    Still, her campaign is optimistic about upcoming contests.
    "The Sanders campaign ... needs to show that they can put together a winning coalition of voters," Finney said, noting Clinton's strong support among African-Americans and Latinos. "That is how you win an election, both in the primary and the general."
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    Sanders' campaign is also looking beyond the next Super Tuesday. The primary calendar turns more favorable for Sanders from here on, Weaver said. There are fewer races in Clinton's stronghold in the south, and Sanders' campaign feels he has a good shot of winning on West Coast and in other states.
    "Outside of the south, Hillary Clinton has yet to show she can win convincingly anywhere," Weaver said. "The math just looks so much better for him after March 15."
    He also noted Sanders improved his standing among African-American voters, capturing about half of young African-American voters in Michigan, though Clinton still trumped him in the demographic overall.

    Turning to the general

    But even if Clinton is able to beat Sanders, her struggles have highlighted potential vulnerabilities against GOP front-runner Donald Trump.
    On Tuesday, the billionaire businessman highlighted Clinton's stumbles, saying his campaign is drawing unhappy Democratic and independent voters.
    "There is no enthusiasm for Hillary," he said on CNN's "New Day." "She's not going to bring back trade. She's in favor of trade deals. She's not going to bring back businesses. She's not going to bring back all of the employment that's gone, all the factories that have closed."
    Clinton, however, still tops Trump in polls of a general election match-up between them.