4 min read

What the Michigan results tell us

Be careful about grafting primary results onto the general election.
What the Michigan results tell us
Photo by Element5 Digital / Unsplash

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President Joe Biden and former President Donald Trump easily won their party primary in Michigan last night — but the results on both sides offered warning signs for the two candidates ahead of November.

On the Democratic side, Biden won with 81.1% of the vote; 13.2% cast ballots for “uncommitted,” a none-of-the-above option which many chose as a protest vote against Biden’s handling of the Israel-Hamas war. While that percentage is about par for the course for recent primaries — during Barack Obama’s re-election campaign in 2012, “uncommitted” won 10.7% of the Michigan Democratic primary vote — it still represents a sizable chunk of Democratic primary voters (more than 100,000) registering their displeasure with Biden in a key swing state.

In heavily Arab-American communities, the size of the protest vote was even larger. In Dearborn, for example, “uncommitted” beat Biden, 56% to 40%, with 98% of the city’s precincts reporting.

(As for Biden’s other rivals, Minnesota Rep. Dean Phillips came in fourth place in a two-person race, finishing behind not only “uncommitted” but also Marianne Williamson, who dropped out earlier this month. After her third-place finish, with 3% of the vote, Williamson announced this morning that she is “unsuspending” her campaign.)

On the Republican side, Trump took 68.2% of the vote, compared to 26.6% for former UN ambassador Nikki Haley. Only 16 delegates were up for grabs in the GOP primary (the other 39 will be awarded at caucus conventions on Saturday), but Trump will win most of them — continuing his march towards the GOP nomination.

Haley has said she will stay in the Republican primary at least through Super Tuesday next week, but her mathematical path to the nomination is incredibly narrow. As on the Democratic side, a sizable chunk of Republicans repudiated their frontrunner last night, but not in a way that changes the fundamental calculus of the primaries.

So, what did we learn last night about the general election? Two things we already knew: Biden is struggling among constituencies angry about the war in Gaza, and Trump is struggling among suburban voters who glom to Haley. Both of these facts have long been clear from polling. A recent NBC News poll, for example, showed Biden winning 46% of 18-to-29-year-olds (compared to 60% in 2020) and Trump winning 42% of white people with college degrees (compared to 48% in 2020).

These are both clearly soft spots Trump and Biden need to work on. But primary results don’t tell us that much more, since there will likely be many “uncommitted” voters who vote for Biden in November and many Haley voters who vote for Trump. On top of that, there are members of both groups who didn’t vote for their party’s nominees in 2020 and were likely never winnable for them in 2024, again limiting the explanatory power of their primary choices.

More news to know.

Congressional leaders at the White House yesterday. (Photo by the White House)

Government shutdown update: Congressional leaders emerged from a meeting with President Biden on Tuesday sounding hopeful that a partial government shutdown — which would begin Saturday— can be averted.

“We’re very optimistic,” said House Speaker Mike Johnson (R-LA), who reportedly proposed a stopgap funding bill to extend the shutdown deadline for about 20% of agencies from March 1 to March 8 and from March 8 to March 22 for the other 80%. Another short-term measure, which Johnson had previously said he would oppose, would give negotiators more time to hash out the full 12 appropriations bills.

Meanwhile, the Democratic leaders and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) apparently ganged up on Johnson to urge him to hold a vote on the Senate-passed Ukraine/Israel aid package. “The meeting on Ukraine was intense,” Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) told reporters. “Everyone in that room was telling Speaker Johnson how vital” the foreign aid is.

“What I hope is that the House will take up the Senate bill and let the House work its way,” McConnell said after the meeting, a rare example of a Senate leader publicly urging a House leader of his own party to act a certain way.

More headlines to know:

The day ahead.

White House: President Biden is receiving his annual physical exam this morning, the results of which will be released later today. He will also deliver remarks on crime at 1:30 p.m. ET.

Congress: The Senate is set to vote on two district judge confirmations. The House is scheduled to vote on several pieces of legislation, including a bill which could bring back the Washington Commanders to D.C. from Maryland.

On the committee level, Hunter Biden will testify behind closed doors to the House Oversight and Judiciary Committees, a key moment in the GOP impeachment inquiry against his father.

Supreme Court: The justices will hear oral arguments in Garland v. Cargill and Coinbase v. Suski.

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