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Michigan primary set to test Biden's strength with hardcore Democrats

Biden will face a different opponent in the form of Minnesota Democratic Rep. Dean Phillips, against whom he is expected to triumph. But the degree of that victory may prove to be a barometer of Democratic support.

Published: February 26, 2024 11:00pm

President Joe Biden on Tuesday will face a primary contest in battleground Michigan and, though he is expected to win it handily, the margin of his prospective victory could serve as an indicator of his strength among Democrats and in the pivotal battleground state.

Former President Donald Trump unexpectedly won Michigan in 2016, though President Joe Biden managed to swing it back to blue in 2020. At present, however, polling data suggests the incumbent may face an uphill battle to hold on to the Wolverine state. Trump currently leads Biden in Michigan by an average 5.1%, according to RealClearPolitics.

On Tuesday, Biden will face a different opponent in the form of Minnesota Democratic Rep. Dean Phillips, against whom he is expected to triumph. Voters also of the option of choosing "uncommitted." A recent Emerson College survey suggests 77% will back Biden, 7% will opt for Phillips, while 16% would opt for "uncommitted."

Support for Phillips and the "uncommitted" ticket could prove a measure of Biden's support among key progressive constituencies, many of which are threatening to break for Trump or a more progressive option.

Muslim Americans

Michigan is home to a high concentration of Muslim-American residents, many residing in the city of Dearborn, which has been embroiled in controversy amid the Israel-Gaza War. A column in The Wall Street Journal earlier this month titled "Welcome to Dearborn, America’s Jihad Capital," highlighted the pro-Palestine demonstrations in the town that materialized after the Oct. 7 Hamas attack on Israel.

Biden defended the people of Dearborn, saying "Americans know that blaming a group of people based on the words of a small few is wrong. That’s exactly what can lead to Islamophobia and anti-Arab hate, and it shouldn’t happen to the residents of Dearborn – or any American town."

Nonetheless, Muslim-Americans remain vocal critics of Biden's pro-Israel policies regarding the Gaza conflict. The National Muslim Democratic Council in October of 2023, for example, warned Biden that unless he secured a ceasefire in Gaza, the group would work against his candidacy.

"Your administration's unconditional support, encompassing funding and armaments, has played a significant role in perpetuating the violence that is causing civilian casualties and has eroded trust in voters who previously put their faith in you," they wrote to him at the time, Reuters reported. "We emphasize the significance of Michigan, Ohio, Iowa, Florida, Arizona, Nevada, Georgia, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Tennessee, where many of our voters reside."

Young voters

The Gaza issue appears to of consequence for younger voters as well. Typically a Democratic-leaning group, they are concerned about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and Biden's support for the former faction.

Fifty-one percent of respondents aged 18-24 in a Harvard CAPS-Harris Poll in December expressed a belief that Israel should "be ended and given to Hamas and the Palestinians." A further 67% of the same block agreed that "Jews as a class are oppressors and should be treated as oppressors."

Biden faces potential loss of support from this constituency due in part to his stance on the conflict, but also from his left-ward flank on the environment. Independent candidate Cornel West has eyed Michigan as a prime recruiting ground for his own insurgent presidential bid.

"We're the only major candidate, I think, who's bringing any kind of sanity and sensitivity to the suffering in Gaza," he said in November. West has also sought to woo university students, Muslim Americans, and environmental groups in Flint, which suffered a major water crisis in recent years.

Union workers

Traditionally a hub of auto-manufacturing, Michigan is home to many union workers, some of whom Trump won over in 2016 with his pitch to restore outsourced American manufacturing jobs.

Biden earned the endorsement of the United Auto Workers (UAW) in January, with UAW President Shawn Fain saying that "[t]his choice is clear: Joe Biden bet on the American worker while Donald Trump blamed the American worker. If our endorsements must be earned, Joe Biden has earned it."

Trump, for his part, has feuded with the UAW over the endorsement and warned that Biden's electric vehicle mandates present a risk to the continued strength of the American auto industry.

Fain, he said in January, bought "into Biden’s 'vision' of all Electric Vehicles, which require far fewer workers to make each car but, more importantly, are not wanted in large numbers by the consumer, and will ALL be made in China."

"I want them to be made in the USA, every type of car, and would require China, and other countries, through TARIFFS, or otherwise, to build plants here, with our workers. Now they are building in Mexico, the biggest plants anywhere, and selling their cars, Tariff Free, into the good ol’ USA. Shawn Fain doesn’t understand this or have a clue. Get rid of this dope & vote for DJT. I will bring the Automobile Industry back to our Country," he added.

Ben Whedon is an editor and reporter for Just the News. Follow him on X, formerly Twitter.

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