Donald Trump is not afraid of Mitt Romney, the 2012 Republican nominee who eviscerated him in a speech last week, and let the audience know at a rally in Michigan Sunday.
And Hillary Clinton took care to tell people at the party’s presidential debate in Flint, Michigan, also on Sunday, it was her idea to hold it there to focus attention on the city’s water crisis.
The battle for delegate-rich Michigan, part of America’s “Rust Belt”, called so after abandoned factories of this once dominant industrial region, is well and truly under way.
Both Republicans and Democrats hold their primaries in Michigan and Mississippi on Tuesday. And Republicans are also holding their primary in Idaho and caucuses in Hawaii.
Trump leads the Republican field in Michigan, which has 57 delegates, by a wide margin, 38.5% to his nearest rival Ted Cruz’s 20.5%, and that may explain his confidence.
Michigan is Romney’s home-state. His father, George Romney, was once governor of the state, and his niece Ronna Romney McDaniel chairs the state unit of the Republican party.
But the audience at the rally were with Trump.
“This guy Romney came out yesterday,” Trump started, greeted by boos from those who could tell what was coming, according to a report in The Washington Examiner.
“The hatred he has, the jealousy, the hatred, it’s hard to believe.” More boos followed reportedly. “You guys should like him, right?” Trump said. And there were some more boos.
“’Deport Romney,” yelled a man in the audience.
“Thank you,” said Trump.
“Loser,” yelled a woman near the Examiner reporter.
Romney ripped into Trump, the party frontrunner, last Saturday, just hours ahead of a Republican debate, calling him a “fake” a “fraud” and a “conman”, not fit for the White House.
The Republican leadership is in a state of panic over Trump’s growing grip on the nomination, which they fear, could cost the party both the White House and Congress.
But Trump looks set to take Michigan, Mississippi (40 delegates), where he leads nearest rival Cruz 41% to 17%, and Idaho (32 delegates), where he is ahead of Cruz 30% to 19%. No polls were available for Hawaii.
In the Democratic race, Clinton is way ahead of Bernie Sanders in both Michigan and Mississippi, and by a wide margin, which could explain Sanders’ aggression at the Sunday debate.
Michigan, the big prize with 147 delegates for Democrats, has Clinton leading Sanders 58.6% to 38.2% in the RealClearPolitics average of polls for the state.
And keen to retain the advantage, Clinton told the audience at Flint, which has been hit by a drinking water crisis, she wanted the debate to focus attention on their problem.
Sanders aggressively attacked Clinton, snapping at her a few times, equally eager to cut her lead and close the growing gap in the count of delegates, between him and the frontrunner.
Clinton is also set to win Mississippi (36 delegates), and big, 62.5% to 18.5% in the average of polls, according to an aggregate of polls by RealClearPolitics.