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National News

Biden and Trump win Michigan presidential primaries

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Jon King, Michigan Advance
February 27, 2024

President Joe Biden and former President Donald Trump each won their respective primaries Tuesday in Michigan.

The Associated Press made the call about an hour after polls in most counties closed at 8 p.m., with just over 10% of the votes tabulated. Four western Upper Peninsula counties in the central times zone close their polls at 9 p.m.

The victories make it all the more likely that the two will face off against each other this November, in a repeat of the 2020 election in which Biden defeated Trump. 

However, the results aren’t all cut and dried for either candidate.  

Biden, who cruised to an 81% victory with 618,000 votes, according to unofficial returns with 99% reporting, has had to contend with a campaign to convince Democrats across the state to vote uncommitted on their ballot as a protest message over his support of Israel in its war against the militant group Hamas in Gaza.

Unofficial results show more than 100,000 voters chose to do just that, easily outpacing the 10,000 vote goal set by the Listen to Michigan campaign, approximating the margin of votes by which Trump won Michigan in 2016. 

It also bested the uncommitted vote totals in the 20202016 and 2012 Democratic primaries. However, with 13% of the vote, uncommitted has not won any delegates so far — and the total is only slightly higher than the 11% uncommitted received when incumbent former President Barack Obama was on the ballot 12 years ago.

Michigan’s Democratic primary is the last before Super Tuesday, with 117 delegates up for grabs.

If the uncommitted vote hits 15% or higher, state election law allows those delegates to vote as they please at the Democratic National Convention, set for August in Chicago.

The only other candidate Biden faced on the ballot was U.S. Rep. Dean Phillips (D-Minn.), who was polling under 3%. Author Marianne Williamson’s name was on the ballot and she was also pulling 3%, although she suspended her presidential campaign on Feb. 7.

Listen to Michigan’s campaign manager is Layla Elabed, the sister of U.S. Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-Detroit), said, “Michigan Democrats opposed to Biden’s policy in Gaza can demonstrate that we hold his margin of victory for re-election,” and that “Biden must earn our vote through a dramatic change in policy.”

 Rep. Rashida Tlaib on Oct. 27 in Detroit | Andrew Roth

After casting her uncommitted vote on Tuesday, Tlaib recorded a video on the X page for the #ListenToMichigan campaign.

“I was proud today to walk in and pull a Democratic ballot and vote uncommitted. We must protect our democracy. We must make sure that our government is about us, about the people,” she said. “Listen to Michigan. Listen to the families right now that have been directly impacted, but also listen to the majority of Americans who are saying enough. No more wars. No more using our dollars to fund a genocide. No more.”

Tlaib’s parents are Palestinian immigrants and she has long been a vocal critic of Israel.

Seven Democratic state lawmakers are among those who supported the campaign, including Majority Floor Leader Abraham Aiyash (D-Hamtramck), along with Reps. Alabas Farhat (D-Dearborn), Karen Whitsett (D-Detroit), Erin Byrnes (D-Dearborn), Dylan Wegela (D-Garden City), Jaime Churches (D-Wyandotte), and Emily Dievendorf (D-Lansing). Dearborn Mayor Abdullah Hammoud, a former state representative, was also a supporter.

Meanwhile, the #AbandonBiden campaign, which seeks the president’s loss in November regardless of what actions he takes toward the Israel-Hamas conflict, declared “victory” late Tuesday afternoon, hours before polls even closed.

“Ultimately, the election results in this primary point to Biden’s loss in November,” stated a press release. The group plans a press conference Wednesday morning in Dearborn.

One skeptic of the meaning behind the uncommitted margin is 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.

“Unless or until the uncommitted vote in the Michigan Dem primary exceeds 20% the protest didn’t happen. Ten to twenty percent uncommitted is the historic norm,” said Timmer.

Regardless, Biden was thankful for the win and looking forward to November.

“Four years ago, it was Michigan’s diverse coalition that came together to reject Donald Trump’s MAGA extremism and sent me and [Vice President] Kamala [Harris] to the White House,” he said. “Because of Michiganders, we’ve been able to work hand in hand with Governor [Gretchen] Whitmer and the incredible Democratic leaders in Michigan’s congressional delegation to deliver enormous progress. 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. 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. And we’re fixing our crumbling bridges and roads while creating thousands of good-paying, union jobs right here in Michigan after Trump shipped them overseas.”

“For all of this progress, there is so much left to do,” continued Biden. “Donald Trump is threatening to drag us even further into the past as he pursues revenge and retribution. He proudly brags that he is the reason Roe v. Wade was overturned in this country. Because of Donald Trump, women’s lives are at risk, doctors face the prospect of criminal penalties for doing their jobs, and families desperately trying to have children are having access to fertility treatments ripped away. Now, Donald Trump wants to ban abortion nationwide – including here in Michigan.”

Whitmer also highlighted the stakes for Democrats this November.

“I appreciate every Michigander who participated and made their voice heard. Michigan is proud of its rich diversity of backgrounds, ideologies, and cultures,” said Whitmer, a co-chair of Biden’s reelection campaign. “This is what makes us stronger and always has. We’ve got a stark choice in front of us between Joe Biden and Donald Trump. Joe Biden brought the supply chain back to Michigan, lowered costs, made insulin more affordable for hundreds of thousands of Michiganders who need it, and has worked to protect and expand access to reproductive freedom. Donald Trump would ban abortion nationwide, ship auto jobs back to China, and pit us against each other. He proposed a Muslim ban and did whatever he could to undercut Michiganders’ fundamental freedoms. In Michigan, it’s time to come together and go full steam ahead to November for Joe Biden and Kamala Harris, and we will continue getting the word out every day about what’s at stake.”

 Gov. Gretchen Whitmer at a rally for former Vice President Joe Biden in Detroit, March 9, 2020 | Andrew Roth

Also congratulating Biden was Michigan AFL-CIO President Ron Bieber, who additionally emphasized the importance of the November election.

“Michigan has Biden’s back,” he said. “For the past four years, President Biden has delivered on the promises he made to Michigan workers. None of the progress we’ve made as a labor movement would have been possible without the fierce ally working people have in the White House. The stakes in November couldn’t be higher and I’m prouder than ever to stand with Joe Biden.”

Trump has 68% of the GOP vote, roughly 756,000 votes, according to unofficial returns with 99% reporting, and his rival, former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley had 27% with about 294,000 votes. The GOP race is now officially down to Trump and Haley after Texas pastor Ryan Binkley announced the suspension of his campaign Tuesday morning and endorsed Trump.

However, that margin of victory could be seen as a sign of some discontent among the party faithful, and potentially show up Trump’s own prediction.

“I mean, Nikki’s not even a factor,” Trump said in an interview on WJR-AM Tuesday afternoon. “She’s gonna lose like by 80 points tonight. She’s become a joke.”

Trump remained confident in his remarks following Tuesday’s win.

“We have to win on November 5, and we’re going to win big, and it’s going to be like nothing that anybody has ever seen,” said Trump. “It’s going to be fantastic. We win Michigan; we win the whole thing. The auto workers are with us. We have so many people with us. They’ve destroyed the auto working business — the auto workers — with this new deal, and with the all-electric mandate, all those cars are going to be made in China. And we’re going to bring it all back into Michigan and other places in our country. But I just want to thank everybody, you’ve been so incredible. 

“The numbers are far greater than we even anticipated. Thank you very much, and we’ll be doing a lot of campaigning over the next couple of months. … I can tell you this November 5th cannot come fast enough because our country is in serious trouble. We have the worst president in the history of our country, the most incompetent and the most corrupt president, and we can’t let this continue. So the date November 5, January 20, when we take over, could not come fast enough because we’re going to Make America Great Again, greater than ever before. And I just want to thank everybody, you’ve been incredible.”

However, Trump has been dogged by Haley throughout the nominating process. Despite big wins in Iowa, New Hampshire, and even Haley’s home state of South Carolina, Trump’s margins of victory have been a sign of potential trouble down the road. 

While he remains highly popular with the party’s base, Alex Conant, a GOP operative who worked on Sen. Marco Rubio’s (R-Fla.) 2016 presidential campaign, says his outreach to independents and suburban voters has not been strong.

“Once we get into the general election and Republicans don’t have a choice, some of those voters will come home, but in a close election, those voters are why Trump lost in 2020,” Conant told The Hill. “I think it is problematic, and it’s striking how Trump has done nothing to expand his appeal since 2020.”

Haley’s spokesperson, Olivia Perez-Cubas, made that very point Tuesday night.  

“Joe Biden is losing about 20 percent of the Democratic vote today, and many say it’s a sign of his weakness in November,” she said. “Donald Trump is losing about 35 percent of the vote. That’s a flashing warning sign for Trump in November. 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.”

 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)

However, Michigan’s House Minority Leader, state Rep. Matt Hall (R-Richland Twp.), offered his congratulations on the victory.

“The voters of Michigan want President Trump’s leadership in the White House,” said Hall. “They’re fed up with the far-left agenda they’re getting from Democrat politicians, from President Biden on down to the state House of Representatives. Michigan Democrats have passed expensive green energy laws that will raise electricity prices, and they’ve raised taxes on working families while giving taxpayer-funded handouts to corporations for electric vehicle battery plants. This artificial push for EVs will shut down auto plants and lay off workers. Michiganders want a change at the top. That’s why I led more than 50 state legislators in endorsing President Trump, and he won Michigan by a huge margin. It’s time for all Republicans to unify behind President Donald J. Trump so we can lead our great state and nation back to prosperity. Together, we will win up and down the ticket this November.”

For Republicans, today’s balloting is just the first part of a two-part process to award their presidential delegates that will attend July’s Republican National Convention in Milwaukee. Only 16 of the GOP delegates are based on Tuesday’s results. So far, Trump has earned nine and Haley has two. The remaining 39 of the state’s 55 delegates are determined at a caucus convention this Saturday. 

That issue had been somewhat up in the air with dueling conventions planned for both Detroit and Grand Rapids amid a leadership fight, but a Kent County judge on Tuesday provided some answers by declaring a Jan. 6 vote that removed Kristina Karamo as party chair to be legal

Karamo had set the Detroit convention, but with Tuesday’s ruling, and the Republican National Committee previously endorsing her replacement, former U.S. Rep. Pete Hoekstra, only the delegates chosen in Grand Rapids will receive credentials to the national convention.

Michigan’s status as a battleground state was exemplified in 2016 when Trump narrowly won the state over Democrat Hillary Clinton, beating her by just 10,700 votes. While that was less than a percentage point difference, it gave Trump all of Michigan’s then-16 electoral votes, and was key to his taking the White House.

The state’s battleground status was then solidified in 2020, when Biden beat Trump by more than 154,000 votes, for a 3% margin of victory, 51%-48%, helping to amass an electoral and popular vote victory that ended Trump’s presidency. Trump, of course, has never accepted that defeat and continues to promote the thoroughly disproven fiction that massive fraud was behind his loss. 

During an appearance earlier this month in Lansing,  Pete Buttigieg, who serves as Biden’s transportation secretary, emphasized the opportunity Michigan voters have as an early primary state.

“I think it’s important for residents in the state to lean into that,” said Buttigieg, who moved to Traverse City in 2022. “Just showing that people here understand what it means to be given a level of outsized influence that can really shape the conversation, and showing our readiness to do that, that’s a big deal.”

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.