USA: Primary election in Michigan: setback for Biden – Trump also wins

Biden and Trump clearly won their parties’ primaries in the state of Michigan. But their victories are not untarnished. Both are likely to look at the results very closely.

As expected, US President Joe Biden achieved a clear victory in the Democratic primary election in the state of Michigan – but the result is still likely to cause concern for the effectively unrivaled incumbent. The vote showed that the 81-year-old’s support for Israel in the Gaza war could be dangerous.

Around 100,000 voters refused to vote for Biden and voted “undecided” in the primary election for the presidential nomination. That is significantly more than in previous Democratic primaries. A relatively large number of Muslims live in Michigan, and before the election several groups had called for a undecided vote in protest against Biden’s Middle East policy.

Former US President Donald Trump is also clearly ahead of his competitor Nikki Haley in the Republican primary. After counting around 99 percent of all votes, Trump has a good 68 percent, Haley 26.5 percent. Despite the lead of more than 40 percentage points, the 77-year-old cannot sit back.

Michigan is an important swing state

Anyone who wants to become a presidential candidate in the United States must first prevail in internal party votes in the various states. A duel between Trump and Biden in the presidential election on November 5th is considered very likely. Trump is far ahead of Haley in internal party polls among Republicans and has already clearly won in primaries in Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina against the former US ambassador to the United Nations, who once had to represent Trump’s foreign policy on the international stage. Biden has no serious competition among the Democrats. The Republicans will choose their candidate at a party conference in mid-July, the Democrats in mid-August.

Michigan is located in the north of the USA and has around 10 million inhabitants. The industrially dominated state is considered a so-called swing state that cannot be firmly attributed to either Democrats or Republicans. Many Michigan residents work for auto companies or their suppliers, and unions are very important. The influential auto workers union (UAW) supports incumbent Biden. But in the primary election, the focus was on a foreign policy issue.

Large Muslim community in Michigan

The vote in Michigan is seen as a mood test for how Biden’s policies in the Middle East could affect the November election, as Muslims are a significant voting group in the state. According to the advocacy group Emgage, around 200,000 Muslim voters live there. They could have a noticeable impact on the election results in November. In the 2020 presidential election, Biden won the state by around 155,000 votes over Trump.

For Biden, victory in the primary election in Michigan was a formality. But he should primarily look at the number of people who voted “undecided”. In each of the last three Democratic primaries in Michigan, around 20,000 Democrats voted “undecided.” On Tuesday evening (local time), with only 41 percent of the votes counted, the number was already around 50,000. Before the election, several groups had called for a “undecided” vote in protest against Biden’s policies in the Middle East. They are calling for an immediate ceasefire in the Gaza war and an end to US military aid to Israel.

Biden criticized for supporting Israel

Several groups launched a campaign against Biden ahead of the primary, calling for an immediate ceasefire in the Gaza war and an end to U.S. military aid to Israel. The protest against Biden was particularly clear in the city of Dearborn, home to a large Arab-American and Muslim community – the city is home to the largest mosque in the USA. More people there voted for “undecided” than for Biden.

But it is not only Muslims who are likely to have denied Biden their vote in Michigan. Younger, progressive Democrats are also criticizing the president in view of the many civilian casualties in the Gaza Strip. Biden toughened his tone toward the Israeli government in the weeks following the unprecedented massacre on October 7 by terrorists from Hamas and other extremist groups in southern Israel. At the same time, the US government repeatedly emphasizes Israel’s right to self-defense and, in the opinion of many, continues to allow Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to do so. CNN quoted an adviser from Biden’s campaign team as saying that Biden is committed to an end to violence and a just and lasting peace.

Actually, Muslims as a group of voters in the USA tend to lean more towards the Democrats than the Republicans. It is unlikely that Muslims angry about Biden’s support for Israel will defect to the Republicans in the presidential election. However, things could be tight for Biden in an important swing state like Michigan even if many voters vote for an independent third-party candidate or stay at home.

Haley doesn’t want to give up

Like Biden, Trump could also count on a clear victory in his party’s primaries in Michigan. But after almost all votes were counted, Haley won almost 27 percent, while the rest voted undecided or were divided among unpromising candidates. The question will be how many of these Haley supporters will end up voting for Trump in the November presidential election if he runs. Some of them do not rule out even voting for Biden to prevent Trump from having a second term. This may not apply to the majority of Haley supporters. But if this group doesn’t vote or supports a third, independent candidate, that could become a big problem for Trump.

Now special attention is on March 5th, the so-called Super Tuesday. On this day, Republican primaries will be held simultaneously in 15 states. Haley made it clear in an interview with CNN on Tuesday evening that she wanted to stay in the race at least until Super Tuesday. In the past, Trump has been upset that the former governor of South Carolina did not want to drop out of the party’s internal race despite a lack of prospects for success. Because as long as the 52-year-old doesn’t give up, he can’t concentrate exclusively on his political opponent Biden. Instead, Trump must continue to spend money and time campaigning against Haley.