This Tim Alberta piece is a perfect companion to what John wrote about earlier, the idea that Bernie’s surprising strength against Hillary in the 2016 primary was really all a big misunderstanding. In hindsight, it’s not that Bernie was “strong,” it’s that Hillary was weak. A meaningful chunk of Democratic voters in the Rust Belt may have been perfectly open to supporting a likable Democratic establishmentarian over Sanders that year.

But a uniquely unlikable establishmentarian? Nah. Protest vote for Bernie, in that case.

This year Democrats have a much more likable person leading the centrist lane. And thus, as if by magic, the narrow victories (Michigan) and narrow defeats (Missouri) that Sanders managed in 2016 thanks to white working-class antipathy to Clinton transform into lopsided Biden wins in 2020.

Alberta asks a logical follow-up question. If Hillary’s weakness with blue-collar white voters in the Rust Belt explains Bernie’s strong showing there in the 2016 primary, does it … also explain Trump’s strong showing there in the 2016 general election? Not entirely, of course. Some of those voters are true-blue Trumpers now, even if they weren’t before. But not all of them might be, and given how tight the margins were in states like Michigan, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania four years ago, Trump really needs all of them to be. Combine Biden’s stronger support among working-class whites with his stronger support among anti-Trump suburbanites and suddenly it looks like the “blue wall” might be rebuilt:

Two things happened on Tuesday in Michigan. First, Democratic turnout exploded. Second, Biden performed far better with key demographic groups than Clinton did four years ago. If either one of those things happens in November, Trump will have a difficult time winning the state again. If both things happen, the president can kiss Michigan’s 16 electoral votes goodbye—and with them, more than likely, the electoral votes of Wisconsin and Pennsylvania…

Biden’s performance among the wealthier suburbanites in these counties should be highly worrisome to Trump. These voters—particularly whites with college degrees—are accepting of the former vice president in a way they never were of Clinton. Four years ago, exit polling of Michigan’s primary showed Sanders winning college-educated whites by 11 points; Biden beat Sanders among that demographic by 14 points on Tuesday, a 25-point swing…

The story of The Trump Realignment has been an exchange between the two parties: More of the well-educated suburbanites fleeing the GOP for the Democratic ranks, with more of the blue-collar rural and exurban voters joining the Republican Party. This tradeoff, while unsustainable for the GOP over future election cycles, never figured to torpedo Trump’s reelection. But what Biden demonstrated on Tuesday was an ability to have it both ways—accelerating the GOP’s exodus in the suburbs while stopping his party’s bleeding in the exurban and rural areas beyond. If he can do that in November, he’ll win.

Alberta wrote a piece in March of 2016 looking at the data from the primaries there and wondering if Trump might be more competitive than Dems thought, an argument for which he was mocked at the time. Now he’s arguing the other way, offering simple math. Bernie got around the same number of votes in Michigan in both elections, 595,000 then and 575,000 last night. Clinton got 577,000 four years ago, good for a very narrow loss. Biden got … 839,000 last night, good for a 16-point win.

Trump won the state over Hillary by 10,000+ votes. Democratic turnout in one pro-Biden suburban county alone, Livingston, increased by 10,000 votes last night over 2016.

To think, it was two weeks ago that this race seemed like it was Bernie Sanders’s for the taking. Nate Cohn wonders where it all went wrong:

The good news for Berniebros is that the future of the Democratic Party (probably) belongs to them. The bad news, given the results last night, is that centrism is presently much stronger than 2016 led them to believe. They lucked out four years ago with an opponent whom no one liked. Maybe Trump did too. They were less lucky this time. Maybe Trump is too.

On the other hand, given how coronavirus looks set to dominate the next several months of American public life, it’s foolish to make any strong predictions about the fall. If Team Trump puts out the fire and the economy rebounds, he’ll surf a tidal wave of goodwill. If it doesn’t, then it won’t matter how Michigan suburbanites are feeling this year. He’ll get wrecked.