Michigan Primaries End with Biden and Trump Wins, Setting Stage for Potential Rematch

President Joe Biden and former President Donald Trump both emerged victorious in Michigan’s primaries on Tuesday, paving the way for a highly anticipated rematch between the two political figures. However, the initial results from the state underscored some significant vulnerabilities for both candidates as they look ahead to the November general election.

A robust “uncommitted” campaign, fueled by activists critical of Biden’s response to the conflict in Gaza, showed promising signs of gaining traction. This campaign had already exceeded the 10,000-vote margin by which Trump won Michigan in 2016, a milestone set by this year’s protest organizers.

As for Trump, he has now clinched victories in the first five states of the Republican primary calendar. Nevertheless, there were early indications that he continued to face challenges among certain key voter demographics that have previously favored former U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley. Haley’s most notable performance on Tuesday night came in regions with college towns such as Ann Arbor, which is home to the University of Michigan, as well as suburban areas around Detroit and Grand Rapids.

For Biden, the significant portion of “uncommitted” voters may indicate a vulnerability within certain segments of the Democratic base in a state crucial for his November prospects. Conversely, Trump has struggled to appeal to suburban voters and those with college degrees, while also contending with a faction within his own party that alleges potential legal transgressions in one or more of his ongoing criminal cases.

Michigan boasts the highest concentration of Arab Americans in the United States, with over 310,000 residents tracing their ancestry to the Middle East or North Africa. Nearly half of the population of Dearborn, a suburb of Detroit, identifies with Arab heritage, comprising approximately 110,000 residents.

Both the White House and Biden campaign officials have made trips to Michigan in recent weeks to talk with community leaders about the Israel-Hamas war and how Biden has approached the conflict, but those leaders have been unpersuaded.

A robust grassroots effort began just a few weeks ago to encourage voters to select “uncommitted” as a way to register objections to the death toll caused by Israel’s offensive. Nearly 30,000 people have died in Gaza, two-thirds of them women and children, according to Palestinian health officials. That push has been backed by officials such as Democratic Rep. Rashida Tlaib, the first Palestinian American woman in Congress, and former Rep. Andy Levin.

Votes expressing “uncommitted” sentiment were approaching the 15% threshold required to secure statewide delegates, although it was too early to determine if the campaign would be able to secure delegates at the local level.

In a statement, Biden did not explicitly address the “uncommitted” initiative. Instead, he highlighted the advancements his administration has made for Michigan residents, while cautioning against Trump’s intentions, stating that Trump is “threatening to drag us even further into the past as he pursues revenge and retribution.”

“This fight for our freedoms, for working families, and for Democracy is going to take all of us coming together,” Biden said. “I know that we will.”

In 2016, Trump secured the state by a narrow margin of only 11,000 votes over Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton, but in the 2020 election, he lost Michigan by nearly 154,000 votes to Biden. The organizers of the “uncommitted” initiative aimed to prove their impact by gathering at least as many votes as the margin of Trump’s 2016 victory, highlighting the significant influence of their voting bloc.

“It is not lost on me that this president has softened his language and begun to recognize Palestinian suffering. But what is not enough is lip service. What we need is a withdrawal of support” for Israel, Dearborn Mayor Abdullah Hammoud said as votes rolled in Tuesday night.

“Tonight, we will watch the votes tally. But what’s most important is to understand that the White House is listening,” Hammoud said.

Congresswoman Debbie Dingell, a vocal supporter of President Biden from Michigan, emphasized that the Biden campaign was fully cognizant of the hurdles it faced in the state leading up to Tuesday night. She underscored the importance of ongoing outreach efforts, not only to the Arab American and Muslim communities but also to other key coalitions essential for Democratic success in November.

“We have to talk to young people,” Dingell said, pointing to Washtenaw County, where Ann Arbor is located. “Women who turned out in record numbers last year, and get in the union halls.” Dingell also noted that Trump was underperforming among Republican primary voters, underscoring his general election weaknesses in the critical swing state.

Trump’s victory in Michigan over Haley, his final significant primary challenger, came after he defeated her by a margin of 20 percentage points in her home state of South Carolina on Saturday. The Trump campaign is aiming to secure the 1,215 delegates required for the Republican nomination by mid-March.

Trump’s early state victories are unparalleled since 1976, when Iowa and New Hampshire began their tradition of hosting the first nominating contests. He has garnered substantial support from various segments of the Republican voter base, including evangelical voters, conservatives, and rural residents. However, Trump has faced challenges with college-educated voters, losing this demographic to Haley in South Carolina on Saturday night.

Instead of traveling to the state, Trump dialed into a Michigan GOP election night watch party in Grand Rapids on Tuesday, emphasizing the state’s significance in the general election and expressing satisfaction with the evening’s results, which he deemed “far greater than anticipated.”

“We have a very simple task: We have to win on Nov. 5 and we’re going to win big,” Trump said, according to a campaign transcript. “We win Michigan. we win the whole thing.”

But Haley campaign spokeswoman Olivia Perez-Cubas said the Michigan results were a “flashing warning sign for Trump in November.”

“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. Our children deserve better.”

However, even prominent figures within the Republican Party who have previously expressed reservations about Trump are increasingly aligning themselves with his candidacy. South Dakota Senator John Thune, the second-ranking Senate Republican, who has been critical of the party’s nominee, endorsed Trump for the presidency on Sunday.

Shaher Abdulrab, a 35-year-old engineer from Dearborn, stated on Tuesday morning that he voted for Trump. Abdulrab explained that he believes Arab Americans share more common ground with Republicans than Democrats. He disclosed that he voted for Biden four years ago but now believes Trump will emerge victorious in the November general election, partly due to the support he would receive from Arab Americans.

“I’m not voting for Trump because I want Trump. I just don’t want Biden,” Abdulrab said. “He (Biden) didn’t call to stop the war in Gaza.”

Haley has committed to persisting with her campaign until at least Super Tuesday on March 5, citing a considerable segment of Republican primary voters who continue to back her despite Trump’s growing influence within the GOP.

Additionally, she managed to outpace Trump’s primary campaign committee in fundraising by nearly $3 million in January. This suggests that certain donors are still considering Haley, despite her slim chances, as an alternative to Trump in case his legal issues jeopardize his nomination prospects.

Trump’s two political committees collectively raised just $13.8 million in January, according to campaign finance reports released last week, and spent more than they brought in. A significant portion of the funds went toward covering legal fees for his various court cases.

In contrast, Biden, with minimal intraparty challengers, has been able to focus on building up his campaign reserves. The Biden campaign and the Democratic National Committee announced that they had received $42 million in contributions during January from 422,000 donors.

At the end of the month, the president had $130 million in cash on hand, which campaign officials said is the highest total ever raised by any Democratic candidate at this point in the presidential cycle.

Despite Trump’s legal troubles, the Republican Party is rallying behind him as the November election approaches. Trump is facing 91 criminal charges across four separate cases, including allegations related to his efforts to overturn the 2020 election results, retaining classified documents after his presidency, and arranging secret payments to an adult film actor.

His first criminal trial, in the case involving hush money payments to porn actor Stormy Daniels, is scheduled to begin on March 25 in New York.