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Biden holds off ‘uncommitted’ protest vote and other Michigan primary takeaways

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(WASHINGTON) — President Joe Biden handily won the Michigan primary Tuesday night, but still faced protest votes over his handling of the war in Gaza.

Critics of the president have protested the Israel-Hamas war across the state, which is home to a large Arab American population. However, it remains unclear if the “uncommitted” ballot option Tuesday, which organizers urged Democratic voters to choose to send a message to Washington, will garner enough votes to earn any delegates at the party’s national convention this summer.

On the Republican side, former President Donald Trump again romped, easily beating former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley. Haley, though, showed once again that an unignorable minority of Republicans aren’t thrilled about the prospects of a third consecutive Trump nomination.

Here are three takeaways from the results Tuesday night in Michigan.

Biden handily wins, fending off a worst-case scenario…

Biden was expected to win Michigan’s primary, but the growing effort to get progressives to vote for the “uncommitted” option on the ballot sparked speculation over what his margin would be.

With About 49% of the estimated vote tallied at publication time, the president had nearly 81% of the vote, with uncommitted stuck at just over 13%, a substantial enough margin to easily avoid a worst-case scenario for Biden’s campaign.

Sensing the threat posed by progressive critics, Biden and his allies looked to finish strong in the home stretch of campaigning.

A friendly pro-Israel group had rolled out advertisements urging Democrats to vote for the president rather than for uncommitted, and Biden himself said in an interview that aired Monday night that a ceasefire in Gaza could be days away. And while the president and vice president themselves didn’t campaign extensively in the state, Gretchen Whitmer, the popular Democratic governor, and her political action committee held several events backing the president just this month.

In a statement following primary projections, Biden touted his win and pushed for Democrats to unite behind him and Vice President Kamala Harris in November, casting the stakes of the election as too high for division.

“I want to thank every Michigander who made their voice heard today. Exercising the right to vote and participating in our democracy is what makes America great,” he said. “For all of this progress, there is so much left to do. Donald Trump is threatening to drag us even further into the past as he pursues revenge and retribution.”

“You’ve heard me say many times it’s never a good bet to bet against the United States of America. It’s never a good bet to bet against Michiganders, either. This fight for our freedoms, for working families, and for Democracy is going to take all of us coming together. I know that we will.”

…but critics win enough votes to make their voices heard

While Biden did win by a yawning margin, supporters of “uncommitted” were able to win tens of thousands of voters to their cause.

The critics appear to have an uphill battle to hit the 15% threshold needed to net any delegates at the party convention this summer, but with about a third of the vote tallied, over 43,000 people had voted “uncommitted,” a not insignificant figure.

“Our movement emerged victorious tonight and massively surpassed our expectations. Tens of thousands of Michigan Democrats, many of whom … voted for Biden in 2020, are uncommitted to his re-election due to the war in Gaza,” Listen To Michigan, a top group pushing the uncommitted effort, wrote on X.

“President Biden, listen to Michigan. Count us out, Joe,” the group posted.

It’s not yet clear how many votes were cast for uncommitted, but for context, Biden won the state by about 154,000 votes in 2020.

In apparent recognition of the electoral threat, Democratic National Committee Chair Jaime Harrison over the weekend said that Biden needed to hear out his detractors.

“At the DNC, we don’t handle policy. But we have to deal with the political implications of policy as they move forward. And the one thing we see, particularly with the situation in Israel and Gaza, the president understands that this is personal for so many folks. And when you’re dealing with personal, you’re dealing with a lot of emotions that come along with it. And the first thing is sitting down and listening to people and hearing where they are,” Harrison said on MSNBC.

Trump romps, but Haley takes a slice of the pie

As in Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina, Trump won Michigan without breaking a sweat.

With just over half of the votes counted, the former president had a 68-27% lead over Haley, the last remaining serious primary rival left in the race.

“I just want to thank everybody, you’ve been incredible. And I’m so proud of the results because they’re far greater than anticipated. So, thank you all very much, and I’ll be seeing you over the next period of nine months and long beyond that,” he told state Republicans after his win.

Still, Haley was able to capture over a quarter of the vote, underscoring again that a vocal minority would rather not have Trump as their nominee and, she claimed, their president.

“Joe Biden is losing about 20 percent of the Democratic vote today, and many say it’s a sign of his weakness in November. Donald Trump is losing about 35 percent of the vote. That’s a flashing warning sign for Trump in November,” Haley spokesperson Olivia Perez-Cubas said in a statement. “Let this serve as another warning sign that what has happened in Michigan will continue to play out across the country. So long as Donald Trump is at the top of the ticket, Republicans will keep losing to the socialist left.”

Haley’s loss is likely to pour fuel on the pressure campaign for her to drop out, but the South Carolina Republican has remained adamant that she will stay in the race at least until Super Tuesday next week.

Haley said in a pretaped interview that aired Tuesday on CNN that she was “absolutely” staying in the race through March 5.

“Let people vote. Now, in the next week, we’re going to watch 20 states and territories vote. Let’s let that happen,” Haley said.

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