PEOPLE look at election results at a monitoring centre set up in Dearborn by the Listen to Michigan watch party, a group which asked voters to vote `uncommitted’ instead of voting for President Joe Biden.—AFP
PEOPLE look at election results at a monitoring centre set up in Dearborn by the Listen to Michigan watch party, a group which asked voters to vote `uncommitted’ instead of voting for President Joe Biden.—AFP

DEARBORN: Joe Biden’s campaign and top Democratic officials vowed to double down on efforts to win back former supporters after being hit by a much stronger-than-anticipated protest vote in the Michigan primary over the president’s support of Israel.

About 13.2 per cent of Michigan Democrats cast a ballot for “uncommitted” in the nominating contest, following a weeks-long push by activists, an Edison Research tally showed after 9am on Wednesday. With about 85pc of all votes counted, the uncommitted vote was already over 101,000 votes, far higher than expected. Turnout for the Democratic primary was also high, at some 900,000 voters overall. About 81pc of those votes backed Biden.

As the results were being tallied, a senior Biden campaign official said the team will continue to “make our case in the state — to both uncommitted voters and the entire Michigan constituency. The president will continue to work for peace in the Middle East.”

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

13.2pc of Michigan Democrats cast a ballot for ‘uncommitted’ in the nominating contest

They asked Biden to push for a permanent ceasefire in Gaza, condition aid to Israel and for sympathetic Democrats to vote “uncommitted” in the primary to signal that Biden could lose their support in November’s 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 reelection in the Midwestern state.

Biden won Michigan by a less than 3pc margin in 2020, and some polls show likely Republican candidate Donald Trump ahead in a head-to-head matchup this time.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 organisers 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 35pc 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.

Published in Dawn, February 29th, 2024

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