Michigan’s strong ‘uncommitted’ vote shows Israel impact on Biden support

By Thomson Reuters Feb 28, 2024 | 4:02 AM

By Nandita Bose and Trevor Hunnicutt

DEARBORN, Michigan/WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Joe Biden’s campaign and top Democratic officials vowed to double down on efforts to win over voters as the U.S. president aims to solve conflicts in the Middle East, after Michigan registered a stronger-than-anticipated protest vote over his support of Israel.

About 13.5% of Michigan Democrats cast a ballot for “uncommitted” in the primary, following a weeks-long push by activists, an Edison Research tally showed at midnight, EST.

With about half of all votes counted, the uncommitted vote was already over 61,000 votes, suggesting the final total will be many times expectations.

Turnout for the Democratic primary was also high, at some one million voters overall; about 81% of those votes backed Biden.

Biden’s campaign will continue to “make our case in the state – to both uncommitted voters and the entire Michigan constituency,” a senior campaign official said as the results were tallied. “The President will continue to work for peace in the Middle East.”

Biden’s staunch support for Israel’s during its five-month war with Hamas that has decimated Gaza has sparked outrage and a well-organized backlash among progressive Democrats and Arab Americans, with Michigan as their epicenter.

They asked Biden to push for a permanent ceasefire in Gaza, and for sympathetic Democrats to vote “uncommitted” in the primary to signal Biden could lose their support in the November general election. About 20,000 uncommitted votes were cast in Michigan’s 2012 Democratic primary, the last time a Democratic president was up for reelection in Michigan.

Biden won Michigan by a less than 3% margin in 2020, and some polls show likely Republican candidate Donald Trump ahead in a head-to-head match-up this time.


Hamas fighters killed 1,200 people and captured 253 hostages on Oct. 7, according to Israeli tallies, triggering Israel’s ground assault on Gaza. Health authorities in the enclave say nearly 30,000 people have been confirmed killed.

Michigan Democratic officials vowed to do more to win over voters.

“Tomorrow is the first day of this general election,” Michigan Lieutenant Governor Garlin Gilchrist II told volunteers working on behalf of Biden as results rolled in on Tuesday night.

“We are not afraid of people participating in democracy. We are not afraid of voters. We are not afraid of people who are ready to speak out in good faith in good conscience because they have good intentions,” he said.

Biden Michigan campaign manager Mike Frosolone told party organizers their efforts would pivot to the general-election effort in the state, with door-knocking, phone-banking and the opening of several offices statewide.

“We know when voters see President Biden and Donald Trump’s record side by side, they’re going to choose President Biden,” he said. He said Biden would lay out this case in his State of the Union address on March 7.

Biden, 81, faces low general approval ratings and concern about his age, as does former President Trump, 77. Trump was formally ordered to pay about $450 million for fraudulently manipulating his net worth by a New York judge this month and faces four unrelated criminal prosecutions, in which he has pleaded not guilty.

Some 35% of Republicans backed former South Carolina governor Nikki Haley in the Michigan primary, a potential sign of weakness for Trump as well; some of her voters have said they won’t back Trump in a general election.

Any permanent solution to the Israel-Gaza conflict remains long off, and the death toll continues to climb, with an estimated one-quarter of the population close to famine. If Trump is reelected he is expected to be a strong supporter of Israel and its right-wing leader Benjamin Netanyahu.

A Reuters/IPSOS poll published Tuesday found “extremism” is the top worry for American voters going into the 2024 election, besting the economy or immigration, and that most judge Biden better equipped to deal with the issue.

In a statement Tuesday evening about the results, Biden contrasted himself to Trump on issues like abortion, healthcare and the economy but did not mention of Gaza or the war in the Middle East.

“Our delegation plans to hold the Democratic nominee accountable to our community’s anti-war agenda at the Democratic National Convention in Chicago,” said Listen to Michigan, one of the groups behind the uncommitted campaign. “See you there.”

(Reporting by Nandita Bose in Dearborn and Trevor Hunnicutt and Kanishka Singh in Washington; Writing by Heather Timmons; Editing by Lincoln Feast.)