Michigan Primary Takeaways: ‘Uncommitted’ Sends Biden a Message


Joseph R. Biden Jr. and Donald J. Trump won the Michigan primary on Tuesday, as the president and his predecessor race toward a rematch in November.

But the results showed some of the fragility of the political coalitions they have built in a critical state for the fall. Losing any portion of support is dangerous for both Biden and Trump. Biden won Michigan in 2020 by about 150,000 votes, and Trump won it in 2016 by about 11,000 votes.

Tuesday’s primary results carried additional weight because Michigan was the first major general election battleground state to hold its primary in 2024.

Here are four takeaways from the results:

When the movement to persuade Democrats to vote “without compromise” began three weeks ago, its public goal was clear: put enough pressure on Biden to call for an unconditional ceasefire in Gaza.

Since then, senior White House officials told Arab American leaders in Dearborn, Michigan, that they regretted about how the administration had responded to the crisis. mr biden He described Israel’s military action as “exaggerated.” And on the eve of the primaries, he said expected a ceasefire agreement It would be in effect within a week. (The view from Israel and Gaza suggested that Biden was being a bit optimistic).

And yet, the strength of the “uncommitted” effort surprised the president’s campaign, which until this week did not anticipate the strength of anti-Biden sentiment among Michigan Democrats.

With most votes counted Wednesday morning, 13 percent of primary voters had chosen “uncommitted,” a proportion that paled against Biden’s 81 percent, but represented more than 100,000 people in Michigan who They made the effort to present their disapproval of the president. .

The movement is now likely to spread to other states, many of which have the option for voters to choose “uncommitted” or “no preference” in their primaries. Listen Michigan, the group that started the state’s protest vote, is holding an organizing call for its supporters in Minnesota, which will vote next week, and Washington state, which will hold its primary on March 12.

“This is the only option we have to implement democracy right now,” said Asma Mohammed, a progressive activist who is among the leaders of a new group called Uncommitted Minnesota. “We are against a Trump presidency and we also want Biden to be better. “If that means pushing it to the limit, that’s what it will take.”

The challenge for Biden’s campaign will be to curb any perceived post-Michigan momentum by those protesting his Gaza policy. As long as the war continues and the United States continues to send aid to Israel, there is little Biden can do to calm voters angry over the rising Palestinian death toll.

Trump has long been the heavy favorite to become the Republican nominee. Biden left little doubt that he would run again for the Democrats.

However, tens of thousands of Michiganders from both parties voted against their standard-bearers on Tuesday, a stark rejection that suggests they could have trouble forming a winning coalition in November. The saving grace for every man, as Karl Rove, George W. Bush’s former chief strategist, recently put it vividly, is that “Only one can lose.”

Part of the reason the Michigan results look more damaging for Biden than for Trump is the question of expectations.

Haley has been campaigning against Trump for months, and her share of the Republican electorate has declined from New Hampshire to South Carolina to Michigan.

But Biden cruised through his first two primaries in South Carolina and Nevada before a loosely organized group of Arab American political operatives, with $200,000 and three weeks to spare, gained enough support that their effort would likely win delegates to the Convention. National Democrat. .

“If the White House is listening, if our congressional leaders are listening, if our state leaders are listening, we need a change of course or we risk American democracy completely unraveling in November,” said Mayor Abdullah Hammoud of Dearborn.

It was not surprising to see the “uncommitted” beat Biden in Dearborn and Hamtramck, two of the Michigan cities with the largest concentrations of Arab Americans. With almost all the ballots counted, Dearborn gave 56 percent from his Democratic primary vote to “uncommitted.” In Hamtramck, the “uncommitted” took 61 percent of the city’s Democratic vote.

Perhaps most concerning for Biden was his performance in Ann Arbor, a college town 30 miles to the west.

There, where most University of Michigan students and faculty live, the “uncommitted” got 19 percent of the vote. In East Lansing, home of Michigan State University, the “uncommitted” got 15 percent of the vote.

While no other battleground state has Arab-American communities the size of Michigan, they all have college towns where young, progressive voters are angry about American support for Israel.

It’s in those places: Madison, Wisconsin; Athens, Georgia; Chapel Hill and Durham, North Carolina; Tucson, Arizona; and State College, Pennsylvania, among others, where Biden faces a threat in the general election if he does not attract overwhelming support and turnout among students in November.

Donald J. Trump won…again. Nikki Haley lost…again.

At one point in the nominating calendar, the Michigan primary had the potential to be a brief but notable way station between the top four states and Super Tuesday.

But the lopsided results offered more of the same: Trump was dominant throughout Michigan and Haley was on track for her weakest performance since the race narrowed to two candidates. She is moving forward, with rallies and fundraisers planned in seven states and Washington, D.C., ahead of Super Tuesday on March 5.

The month of February was marked by momentum, and Trump has it all. March is all about delegates, and he has the majority of them too.

But delegate race is about to accelerate sharply. California alone on March 5 has more delegates at stake than all the January and February races combined.

Haley’s campaign called her vote share (it was below 30 percent early Wednesday) “a flashing warning sign for Trump in November.” But now it was a warning sign for his candidacy.

Nicolas Nehamas contributed reporting from Dearborn, Michigan, and Alicia McFadden from New York.


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