Michigan’s 100,000 ‘uncommitted’ votes show Israel impact on Biden

Michigan’s 100,000 ‘uncommitted’ votes show Israel impact on Biden
Michigan’s 100,000 ‘uncommitted’ votes show Israel impact on Biden

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Nevin Al Sukari - Sana'a - Political activist Linda Sarsour cheers during an election night gathering as Democrats and Republicans hold their Michigan primary presidential election, in Dearborn, Michigan February 27, 2024. — Reuters pic

WASHINGTON, Feb 28 — Joe Biden’s campaign and top Democratic officials vowed to double down on efforts to win over voters as the US president aims to solve conflicts in the Middle East, after Michigan registered a stronger-than-anticipated protest vote over his support of Israel.

About 13.2 per cent of Michigan Democrats cast a ballot for “uncommitted” in the primary, following a weeks-long push by activists, an Edison Research tally showed early this morning.

With about 85 per cent of all votes counted, the uncommitted vote was already over 100,000 votes, far higher than expectations.

Turnout for the Democratic primary was also high, at some 900,000 voters overall; about 81 per cent 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 epicentre.

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, aiming for 10,000 votes, a low figure historically. About 20,000 uncommitted votes were cast in Michigan’s 2012 Democratic primary, the last time a Democratic president was up for re-election in Michigan.


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

‘Not afraid of voters’

Hamas fighters killed 1,200 people and captured 253 hostages on October 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 US$450 million (RM2.1 billion) 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 per cent 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 a long way 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 yesterday 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 last evening about the results, Biden contrasted himself to Trump on issues like abortion, healthcare and the economy but did not mention Gaza or the war in the Middle East.

Vice President Kamala Harris said in a statement today that Michigan’s primary results “make clear the people of Michigan are ready” to address issues this election could impact, including voting rights, gun violence and reproductive rights, but she did not mention the Middle East.

Organisers of the uncommitted campaign said they’d continue to challenge Democrats.

“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 campaign. “See you there.” — Reuters

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