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HomeWorldBiden wins Michigan Democratic primary despite strong pushback over Gaza

Biden wins Michigan Democratic primary despite strong pushback over Gaza

US President Joe Biden easily won the Democratic presidential primary in Michigan on Tuesday, Edison Research projected, but a protest vote by Democrats angry over his support for Israel’s war against Hamas in Gaza was showing signs of strength as initial returns were counted.

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Donald Trump won the Republican presidential primary in the state by a large margin, Edison Research projected, further strengthening his grip on the party’s White House nomination as Nikki Haley, his last remaining rival, came in a distant second.

Although Biden and Republican former President Trump had been expected to easily win their separate party primaries, the vote count for both was being closely watched for signs of wavering support.

In Michigan, home to a large Arab American constituency, Democratic voters had been urged to mark their primary ballots as “uncommitted” on Tuesday in protest at Biden’s Gaza policy.

Early returns showed Biden and Trump with solid leads. With 10% of the estimated Democratic vote counted, Biden had 79% support, with “uncommitted” getting 16%, and with 8% of the estimated Republican vote counted, Trump had 64% support to Haley’s 32%, according to Edison Research.

Michigan routinely offers an “uncommitted” option as a way of questioning whether a named candidate has the support of the party’s base. It could not be determined how many of those votes were protesting Biden’s Gaza policy.

Michigan is expected to play a decisive role in the head-to-head Nov. 5 US presidential election, a likely rematch between Biden and Trump.

It is a battleground state that could swing toward either party. Biden beat Trump in Michigan by just 2.8 percentage points in the 2020 election.

Michigan turnout for former UN Ambassador Haley, who won nearly 40% of Republican votes in her home state of South Carolina on Saturday, was also being scrutinized for signs of vulnerability for Trump among moderates, whose support he would need in a general election.

Despite having lost to Trump in every primary race, Haley has performed well with moderate voters and has vowed to carry on despite having no clear path to the nomination.

Many in Michigan’s Arab American community who backed Biden in 2020 are now outraged, along with some progressive Democrats, over Biden’s support for Israel’s offensive in Hamas-ruled Gaza where tens of thousands of Palestinians have been killed.

Six voters Reuters interviewed at a polling place on Tuesday in Dearborn – a liberal city that is the epicenter of the pushback against Biden’s Israel strategy – said they were voting uncommitted. Another said he was voting for Trump.

But in Detroit, Michigan’s largest city, most Democrats interviewed said they would stick with Biden despite misgivings about his Israel policy, because of their dislike for Trump or Republican policies on abortion rights.

Late on Monday, Biden said Israel had agreed to halt military activities in Gaza for the Muslim holy month of Ramadan expected to begin on the evening of March 10, as Hamas studied a draft for a truce that includes a prisoner-hostage exchange.

It should have happened sooner, said Michael Bristol, 21, a student at Wayne State University who said he cast an uncommitted vote.

Engage Action and Listen to Michigan say they’re aiming for 10% of Michigan’s Democratic primary voters to mark their ballots that way, a symbolically significant 10,000 votes – about equal to Democrat Hillary Clinton’s loss in Michigan to Trump in the 2016 presidential election.

Democrats, overall, support Biden’s handling of the Israel-Hamas conflict by 61%, February polling by Harvard-Harris shows.

Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer and other Democrats have warned that if Democratic voters abandon Biden, they could hand the swing state and the country back to Trump in November. Biden defeated Trump in the 2020 election.

A senior Biden campaign official said: “We’re taking this seriously. The president himself has said repeatedly that he hears these demonstrators and that he thinks that their cause is important.”

On Feb. 1, Biden won a strong pledge of support from union autoworkers, a Michigan voting bloc no less crucial to his reelection bid. The state is home to nearly 20% of all US auto production, more than any state in the country.

“We are going to keep highlighting the contrast between Biden and Trump and once that becomes clear, we fully expect these voters, who have walked away from Biden, to come back,” said LaShawn English, UAW Director Region 1, which represents eight counties in Michigan.

Michigan’s Republican Party, beset by internal turmoil, will allocate some delegates to the party’s July convention based on Tuesday’s primary results.

Rival factions are holding dueling party meetings on Saturday that will award the bulk of the delegates. It was unclear, however, which results will be official, although Trump was expected to handily win both sets of Saturday’s votes.

(REUTERS)



This story originally appeared on France24

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