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National News

Michigan primary results may indicate tougher waters for Trump than Biden

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Jon King, Michigan Advance
February 28, 2024

In the aftermath of Tuesday’s primary in Michigan, the last before Super Tuesday and the first that utilized early voting, the popular pastime of dissecting the returns is now underway.

While the main narrative is that support for President Joe Biden, who handily won with more than 81% of the vote, is imperiled by the more than 100,000 Democrats who voted uncommitted, some analysts say that a closer look at the numbers may indicate more concern for former President Donald Trump in Michigan, which is poised to once again be a key swing state in November.

Trump also dominated his primary battle over former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley, but the margin of victory was much less than the 80% he predicted, at just over 68% to Haley’s 26.5%. Of more concern, though, is the fact that a solid one-third of Republican voters indicated they want someone other than Trump, who faces 91 charges across four criminal cases.

“The big story is not just that Donald Trump continues to lose either three or four out of every 10 Republican votes. It’s that those voters are never ever ever coming back to Donald Trump,” said Jeff Timmer, the former executive director of the Michigan Republican Party who is also a senior adviser to the anti-Trump Lincoln Project and advised Attorney General Dana Nessel’s 2022 reelection campaign.

“Chlamydia is more popular than Donald Trump among college educated white voters, especially white women, and even non-college white mainstream protestant women,” Timmer continued. “The fact that Donald Trump will never get their votes, that’s the big story out of Michigan tonight.”

 Republican presidential candidate Nikki Haley speaks at a rally in Grand Rapids, Mich., on Feb. 26, 2024. Haley responded to the news that Republican National Committee Chair Ronna McDaniel is resigning, saying that “the Republican Party is now becoming Donald Trump’s playpen.” (Photo by Andrew Roth/Michigan Advance)

Haley’s campaign also touched on that issue in remarks after Tuesday’s voting.

“Donald Trump is losing about 35 percent of the vote. That’s a flashing warning sign for Trump in November,” said Haley’s spokesperson, Olivia Perez-Cubas. “Since Trump became president in 2016, he lost Michigan Republicans the state House, state Senate, and Governor’s mansion. What was once a beacon for the conservative cause, the Michigan Republican Party is now fractured and divided.”

Also of note, uncommitted votes in the GOP primary have gone up each of the three years Donald Trump has been on the ballot: from 22,824 in 2016, to 28,485 when he was the incumbent in 2020 to 33,373 on Tuesday, with about 99% of the precincts reporting.

Trump looks to have won 12 of the 16 delegates available and Haley has four.

Republicans have a two-step process to award their presidential delegates that will attend July’s Republican National Convention in Milwaukee. The remaining 39 of the state’s 55 delegates are determined at a caucus convention on Saturday. 

Dueling conventions have been planned for both Detroit and Grand Rapids amid a leadership fight between Kristina Karamo, who was elected chair in 2023, and former U.S. Rep. Pete Hoekstra, but a Kent County judge on Tuesday said the Jan. 6 vote that removed Karamo as chair was legal

Michigan has been a pivotal state in the last two presidential elections, with Trump besting former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton by roughly 11,000 votes in 2016, which helped propel him to the White House. In 2020, Biden defeated Trump by a more than 154,000-vote margin. 

So far, Trump has led Biden in most 2024 polling in the Mitten State.

And Biden also has some issues to process from Tuesday’s results. U.S. Rep. Dean Phillips (D-Minn.) and author Marianne Williamson earned 3% apiece. Williamson announced Wednesday morning that she was “unsuspending” her campaign after she took in slightly more votes than Phillips.

 President Joe Biden delivers remarks on the economy, Thursday, January 26, 2023, at Steamfitters Local 602 United Association Mechanical Trades School in Springfield, Virginia. | Official White House Photo by Hannah Foslien

The Listen to Michigan campaign signaled victory in its effort to convince Michigan Democrats to cast their ballot for uncommitted rather than the incumbent President as a message of deep dissatisfaction with his support of Israel in its war against the militant group Hamas in Gaza.

“Our movement emerged victorious tonight and massively surpassed our expectations. Tens of thousands of Michigan Democrats, many of whom who voted for Biden in 2020, are uncommitted to his re-election due to the war in Gaza,” said the group, which is led by Layla Elabed, the sister of U.S. Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-Detroit), whose parents are Palestinian immigrants and is a longtime vocal critic of Israel. 

“President Biden has funded the bombs falling on the family members of people who live right here in Michigan. People who voted for him, who now feel completely betrayed. President Biden, listen to Michigan. Count us out, Joe,” said the group, which indicated that it plans to continue its “anti-war agenda” through to the Democratic National Convention in Chicago. 

Several Arab-American and progressive groups coalesced to urge an uncommitted vote Tuesday, including Our Revolution, which was started in 2016 to support the presidential bid of U.S. Rep. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.). Sanders has endorsed Biden in 2024.

“Last night, progressive voters across the state of Michigan made their voices heard. By showing up and voting UNCOMMITTED in the Democratic primary, they sent a resounding message to President Biden: Change course now on Gaza or risk alienating key voter blocs needed to defeat Trump in November,” said Executive Director Joseph Geevarghese.

The #AbandonBiden campaign has said that it will not support Biden in November no matter what.

“Our triumph in Michigan is more than a victory; it’s a declaration of our fury and our refusal to be silenced. The #AbandonBiden campaign is just getting started. We will amplify our outrage, shouting louder against Biden’s depraved stance until the last vote is cast on November 5th. This movement to drag the President and his administration into the light of accountability will spread to every corner of this nation,” the group said in a statement Wednesday.

 Rabbi Alam speaks at a rally calling for Michigan voters unhappy with President Joe Biden’s handling of the conflict in Gaza to vote “uncommitted” in the state’s Democratic presidential primary on Feb. 27. (Andrew Roth/Michigan Advance)

While the total of uncommitted votes was 10 times the threshold set by the Listen to Michigan campaign, it represented 13.3% of the more than 700,000 total votes cast. So far, however, uncommitted does not appear to have won any delegates, while Biden is on track to win 109 if the 117 delegates up for grabs.

There’s also the expectation that at least some of the uncommitted voters were specifically sending a message to Biden about his policy toward Israel, and will return to the fold, especially if a ceasefire is achieved, in November, when it is likely he will face off against Trump.

“Trump, not Biden, is the one with base problems. Uncommitted pulled a similar percentage this year as in 2012; it’s closest analogue (incumbent president without a real opposing candidate),” Democratic strategist Adrian Hemond, CEO of Lansing-based Grassroots Midwest told the Michigan Advance. “Trump continues to battle back the 25% or so of the Republican base that is repulsed by him. Overall a pretty uneventful night.” 

Advance Editor Susan J. Demas contributed to this story.

Michigan Advance is part of States Newsroom, a nonprofit news network supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Michigan Advance maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Susan J. Demas for questions: info@michiganadvance.com. Follow Michigan Advance on Facebook and Twitter.

This article is republished from Michigan Advance under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.