Biden's Biggest Challenger in Michigan Has No Name

Arab American voters in the state push 'uncommitted' option to protest his support of Israel
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted Feb 27, 2024 9:25 AM CST
Big Michigan Question for Biden: the Anti-War Vote
President Joe Biden meets with UAW members during a campaign stop Feb. 1, 2024, in Warren, Mich.   (AP Photo/Evan Vucci, File)

President Biden's biggest challenge in Tuesday's primary in Michigan is expected to come from a nameless competitor—"uncommitted." Prominent Arab Americans in the state are urging Democrats to vote that way as a protest over Biden's support for Israel in the ongoing war in Gaza. Coverage:

  • Numbers: Just how big the protest vote is could signal trouble for Biden in the general election. The New York Times notes that 200,000 Arab Americans live in Michigan, and Biden defeated Trump in 2020 in the state by only 154,000 votes. The AP notes that Michigan has the biggest concentration of Arab Americans of any state—in Dearborn alone, about half of the 110,000 residents have Arab ancestry.
  • One voice: The Times story quotes Terry Ahwal, a Palestinian American who lives in suburban Detroit and has actively supported Democrats since emigrating from the West Bank decades ago. She is now actively campaigning against Biden. "You want my vote? You cannot kill my people in my name. As simple as that," she says. "Everything Israel wants, they get."

  • What to watch: Observers will be watching the size of the uncommitted vote, and Layla Elabed—manager of the "Listen to Michigan" campaign against Biden—has set 10,000 as its benchmark. But Politico calls that low, pointing out that the "uncommitted" vote has earned about 20,000 votes in the last three state primaries without any sort of organized campaign. In 2012, for example, "uncommitted" received nearly 21,000 votes when Barack Obama faced no opposition.
  • Two big names: Elabed is the sister of Democratic Rep. Rashida Tlaib, who also wants people to vote uncommitted. Former presidential candidate Beto O'Rourke also backs the campaign, reports the Hill.
  • Bottom line: "If uncommitted gets more of their sort of normal share of the vote, I think it's a signal, and yes, it can carry over to the general," David Dulio, a political science professor at Michigan's Oakland University, tells the Hill. "The folks that are going to vote that way—heavy Arab American population here, heavy Muslim population—what is Biden going to do to get them back?"
(More Michigan primary stories.)

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