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Candidates making final pitches before MI primary

Posted at 4:22 PM, Mar 07, 2016
and last updated 2016-03-07 16:22:08-05

DETROIT — Michigan's contentious primary race was in the national spotlight again as the Democratic presidential candidates took the stage for a FOX News Channel-hosted town hall in Detroit on Monday night.

Fresh off campaign stops in West Michigan earlier in the day, Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton participated in the one hour event just one day after facing off in a debate in Flint, Mich.

Clinton and Sanders picked up where they left off Sunday night in Flint. Up first, Sanders was pressed on statements he made the night prior claiming white people don't know what it's like to be poor.

“What I meant by that was in African American communities you have people living in desperation often being abused by white police officers," Sanders said when asked by FOX News' Brett Baier. "That is a bad thing and that has got to change.”

The two candidates continue to spar over their positions on the auto bailout vote. Clinton hit Sanders hard Sunday night claiming he didn't vote to support the Detroit auto industry financial rescue in 2009. Sanders told the crowd he voted against the second half of the rescue bill, the one bailing out Wall Street banks and mortgage lenders.

Clinton was later pressed on the ongoing FBI investigation into her email server which continues to hang over her campaign. The former secretary of state said she and her staff were "absolutely not" the targets of an FBI probe of her private email server.

Asked why she isn't scoring as well with millennial and women voters as her competitor, Clinton balked by telling the crowd her campaign is not "over-promising."

"I'm telling you what I can do, and how I think I can actually deliver results because I want to rebuild people's confidence in our country and where we are headed in the future," Clinton said.

The Monday night town hall marked Clinton first appearance on the Fox cable news network in two years.

Republican presidential candidates also continued to stump hard in the state for last-minute  support.

Ohio Gov. John Kasich appeared in Monroe, Mich., earlier Monday morning where he told supporters why he thinks he can still win over Donald Trump supporters.

"I've said all along that I think personal attacks against Donald Trump is not the way you win voters," he told the crowd. " You want to win a voter that likes Trump, you give them an answer that's real, because they want to know how their wages are going to go up. They want to know how their jobs are going to be secure.  They want to know if people cheat in the trade deal somebody's going to stick up for them.  They need to know that."

Kasich has amassed more face time with voters in Michigan than any other GOP candidate in recent weeks. His efforts appear to be shifting some voter attitudes in the state: several polls show Kasich is now in a dead heat with Sen. Ted Cruz among likely Michigan GOP voters.

Trump continues to hold a wide lead in Michigan, leading his opponents by 10 or more points in most polls, according to data compiled by Real Clear Politics.

Texas Sen. Ted Cruz made a last-minute campaign stop in Grand Rapids later Monday evening for a gathering at Noto's Old World Italian Dining on 28th Street SE.  Cruz hadn't appeared in Michigan for a campaign event since late last year.

In West Michigan, Cruz is polling ahead of Trump, the only region in the state where he leads the GOP front-runner, according to EPIC/MRA polling.

Michigan's primary election is one of the final contests where delegates are awarded proportionally to how the candidates perform in the popular vote. States voting on March 15 or later, namely Ohio and Florida, award their delegates on a winner-take-all basis.

Michigan election officials say two million people could cast ballots in the state's presidential primary. If that’s the case, it would be highest voter turnout in a combined presidential primary since it was introduced 44 years ago.

Michigan has 7.3 million registered voters.

Polls are open from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Tuesday.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.