Joe Biden won big in Michigan primary, but 'uncommitted' votes signaled potential trouble

President Joe Biden is walking on the South Lawn of the White House in Washington, D.C., on February 26, 2024.

Aaron Schwartz | Nurphoto | Getty Images

President Joe Biden won the Michigan Democratic presidential primary in a landslide, capturing around 80 percent of the votes, as of 11:00 p.m; Tuesday.

The incumbent president’s victory was widely anticipated in the key swing state. But the Michigan primary also acted as a litmus test for Biden’s standing with essential Democratic voter bases, especially amid heightened tensions about his administration’s handling of the war in Gaza.

Over the past few months, Michigan, which has a significant Arab American voter population, became the breeding ground of several anti-Biden campaigns, urging voters to cast “uncommitted” ballots in protest of the Gaza war.

A volunteer holds a “Vote Uncommitted” sign outside of a polling station at Oakman School in Dearborn, Michigan, US, on Tuesday, Feb. 27, 2024. 

Nic Antaya | Bloomberg | Getty Images

The “uncommitted” vote turned into Biden’s main Michigan challenger. As of 11 p.m. Tuesday night, around 13% of voters had chosen “uncommitted,” a higher rate than some Democrats had predicted.

“Four years ago, it was Michigan’s diverse coalition that came together to reject Donald Trump’s MAGA extremism and sent me and Kamala to the White House,” Biden said in a statement Tuesday night.

“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,” he said.

In January, Biden landed the endorsement of the Detroit-based United Auto Workers union, a crucial win for any candidate vying for the battleground state. The union has 400,000 active members and over 580,000 retired members, many of whom live in Michigan.

US President Joe Biden joins a picket line with members of the United Auto Workers (UAW) union at a General Motors Service Parts Operations plant in Belleville, Michigan, on September 26, 2023.

Jim Watson | AFP | Getty Images

In 2020, Biden also won the primary and general election in Michigan. This year, under Biden’s guidance, the Democratic National Committee rearranged the primary calendar to make Michigan one of the first states to vote, giving it bellwether status for the primary race.

Minnesota Rep. Dean Phillips Biden’s longshot opponent, has consistently polled in single digits, and appeared to win about 3% of the Michigan votes. Over the past month, he has canceled events and laid off staff as funding has dwindled.

Despite Biden’s lone rival, his win in Michigan solidifies the going message that the Democratic primary is all but over. His campaign has hinted as much, kicking into general election mode by targeting all political attacks at GOP frontrunner and former President Donald Trump.

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