Biden primary win in Michigan overshadowed by Gaza protest vote

US President Joe Biden easily won Tuesday’s presidential primary in Michigan, but he was expecting a strong backlash over his handling of the Gaza conflict from an Arab American-led protest.

There was minimal suspense regarding the results for either party, as Biden easily defeated his rivals in the Democratic primary and Donald Trump emerged as the early winner in a two-part Republican vote that doesn’t even end until the weekend.

However, counties were initially reporting that 16 percent of Democrats in the crucial battleground were choosing “uncommitted” over Biden after polls closed on Tuesday night. This was a move aimed at getting the president to rescind his support for Israel.

That figure has been under two percent in the last two election cycles and 11 percent the last time a sitting Democratic president sought reelection — when Barack Obama won in 2012.

The mounting civilian death toll in the Israel-Hamas conflict has weakened Biden’s standing among Muslims and Arab Americans, a bloc crucial to his narrow 2020 victory in Michigan over Trump.

The midwestern state has the largest proportion of residents who identify as being of Middle Eastern or North African descent in the country, with most of the population concentrated around Detroit.

Activists in the key battleground had asked Democrats to vote “uncommitted” to censure the president over US military funding for Israel, and to push a call for an immediate ceasefire.

“I was proud today to walk in and pull a Democratic ballot and vote ‘uncommitted,'” said Rashida Tlaib, the only Palestinian-American in Congress.

“When 74 percent of Democrats in Michigan support a ceasefire, yet President Biden is not hearing us, this is the way we can use our democracy to say, ‘Listen — listen to Michigan.'”

By Tuesday night, it appeared that the “Listen to Michigan” movement would easily surpass its target of attracting 10,000 undecided voters to its cause.

About 20,000 voters have marked “uncommitted” in the state’s Democratic primary in the last three election cycles, but that figure was already at 19,000 shortly after ballots closed.

The demonstration never jeopardized Biden’s smooth ascent to the nomination, since as of 9:00 p.m. (0200 GMT), the only candidate challenging him, congressman Dean Phillips of Minnesota, had garnered only 2.7 percent of the vote.

However, a sizable portion of “uncommitted” votes may raise red flags before the general election in November, as Biden cannot afford to see his coalition weakened in the swing state.

According to an AFP count of official Israeli data, 1,160 persons in Israel lost their lives as a result of Hamas’ attack on October 7, which marked the beginning of the war. The majority of the casualties were civilians.

However, the health ministry in Gaza, which is controlled by Hamas, reports that the number of civilian deaths in Israel’s retaliatory campaign has reached around 30,000, which has raised concerns.

This article has been posted by a News Hour Correspondent. For queries, please contact through [email protected]
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