Biden survives ‘uncommitted’ Democratic protest vote over Gaza to win Michigan primary

Biden survives ‘uncommitted’ Democratic protest vote over Gaza to win Michigan primary

President Joe Biden has won the Michigan primary despite a larger-than-expected revolt by progressives and Arab-American Democrats over his support for Israel.

Early tallies by pollsters suggest about 13.2 per cent of voters – more than 100,000 – cast their ballot as “uncommitted”.

Michigan is among a handful of states that allow voters to choose “uncommitted” in place of the listed candidates, or write in their own choice.

It is also home to one of the largest Arab-American populations in the country, specifically located in Dearborn, just outside of Detroit. With almost all its precincts counted, Dearborn recorded that 56.22 per cent of voters chose “uncommitted” compared to 40.37 per cent endorsing Mr Biden.

Mr Biden touted the win in a statement, citing his support for striking auto workers in Michigan, such as when he became the first president to walk a picket line last year.

“I was proud to stand shoulder to shoulder with UAW workers last year as they led the fight for the wages and benefits they deserve,” he said. We took on Big Pharma and are lowering the cost of prescription drugs for nearly 2 million Michigan seniors. We’re investing in our world-class auto industry and are finally making big corporations pay their fair share after Trump rigged the economy for special interests and gave handouts to his wealthy friends.”

Mr Biden’s victory in Michigan pushes back most of the concerns some had about a primary in a crucial swing state. Many Arab-Americans have expressed dissatisfaction toward Mr Biden regarding his support for Israel in its response to Hamas in Gaza after Hamas staged a surprise attack on 7 October, killing 1,200 people and taking numerous hostages.

Arab-Americans make up about 2 per cent of Michigan’s population and many have loved ones who have either died or otherwise been displaced by Israel’s assault on Gaza that has so far killed more than 29,000 Palestinians, many of them women and children.

In turn, many said they planned to vote “uncommitted” rather than support Mr Biden or Democratic congressman Dean Phillips in the primary.

Representative Rashida Tlaib, the only Palestinian American congresswoman, urged Michiganders to vote uncommitted. Conversely, Mr Biden enjoyed the support of many of the Democratic leadership in the state including the state’s governor Gretchen Whitmer, whom many consider to be a future contender for the White House.

The primary also served as an important bellwether given Michigan’s outsized prominence in the general election. Donald Trump became the first Republican to win the state on the presidential level since 1988 in 2016, but Mr Biden put it back in the Democratic column in 2020, by less than a 3 per cent margin, and some polls show likely Republican candidate Mr Trump ahead in a head-to-head matchup this time. After the Supreme Court overturned Roe v Wade in 2022, Democrats flipped both houses of its state legislature for the Democrats for the first time in decades.

Since then, Michigan’s state legislature has flipped and Democrats stand a solid chance of holding the Senate seat held by the retiring Debbie Stabenow. Democrats hope to keep Michigan in their column as well as neighbouring states Wisconsin and Pennsylvania, both of which Mr Trump won in 2016 but Mr Biden won in 2020.

But Mr Biden, 81, continues to face lagging poll numbers in multiple surveys in Michigan and continues to face lingering questions about his advanced age. Mr Trump has repeatedly hit Mr Biden for supposedly not being mentally cognisant, and former South Carolina governor Nikki Haley, who is running against Mr Trump for the Republican nomination, has said both men are too old.

Mr Biden’s victory in Michigan also comes as Democrats officially changed their presidential primary calendar to make South Carolina their first contest and Michigan their second contest in an attempt to move beyond the typical calendar of the Iowa Caucus and the New Hampshire primary. Democrats argue states such as South Carolina and Michigan, which are more racially diverse, offer a better sampling of the party than the largely white Iowa and New Hampshire.