Michigan voters
© REUTERS/Rebecca CookSaeed Sharif and his wife Aisha show their 'I voted' stickers after voting uncommitted as Democrats and Republicans hold their Michigan primary presidential election in Dearborn, Michigan, U.S. February 27, 2024.
President Joe Biden's support for Israel's war against Hamas in Gaza is being put to a test on Tuesday in Michigan, home to a large Arab American constituency where Democratic voters have been urged to mark their primary ballots as "uncommitted" in protest.

Biden and Republican former President Donald Trump are expected to easily win their party's primaries in the state on Tuesday. But the vote count for both is being closely watched for signs the candidates face wavering support within their own parties.

Voters trickled into a polling site Tuesday morning at an elementary school in Dearborn, a liberal city that is the epicenter of the pushback against Biden's Israel strategy. Of the seven voters Reuters interviewed before 11 a.m. (1600 GMT), six said they were voting "uncommitted" and one said he was voting for Trump.

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

Biden, a Democrat, and Trump both want strong showings in Michigan, a battleground state expected to play a decisive role in the head-to-head U.S. presidential election on Nov. 5. Biden beat Trump in Michigan by 2.8 percentage points in the 2020 election.

Many in Michigan's large Arab American community who supported Biden in 2020 are now outraged, along with some progressive Democrats, over what they assert is Biden's unwavering support for Israel's Gaza offensive, in which tens of thousands of Palestinians have been killed.

"America's blind support of Israel is just unacceptable. I just worry that Biden doesn't get it," said one uncommitted Dearborn voter, Sajjad, a 42-year-old doctor who didn't want to give his full name.

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 also said in Dearborn he cast an "uncommitted" vote.

"I know and understand Biden can't snap his fingers and make this OK, but a stronger message of ceasefire would have worked," he said.

Thaddeus Kolon, 72, a retired electrician and disabled veteran who was casting a vote for Biden at a downtown Detroit polling booth, said he didn't think the president "gets a lot of credit for what he does," adding "and also the alternative scares the daylights out of me." Kolon said he almost voted "uncommitted" but then decided he was not a one-issue voter.

Engage Action and Listen to Michigan say they're aiming for 10% of Michigan's Democratic primary voters to choose "uncommitted," a symbolically significant 10,000 votes - about equal to Hillary Clinton's 2016 loss to Trump in Michigan.

Democrats, overall, support Biden's handling of the Israel-Hamas conflict by 61%, February polling, opens new tab by Harvard-Harris shows. And U.S. voters, overall, are more concerned about "extremism" than any other issue, Reuters/Ipsos polling released Tuesday shows.

Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer, a Democrat, and some others in the party have warned that if Democrats failed to support Biden, they could hand the swing state and the country to Trump in November.

"Those who are pushing for the uncommitted vote for Tuesday should be careful what they wish for because Biden is trailing Trump in our statewide polls in Michigan," said Bernie Porn, president of Michigan-based research firm EPIC-MRA. "Biden is underperforming right now, and this uncommitted movement could hurt him in November."

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.

"Michigan is always a closely decided state, Whitmer, a co-chair for Biden's campaign, said in an interview with MSNBC.

"It's going to be important that, you know, the administration continued to engage with leaders and individuals in the Palestinian community, the Muslim community, the Arab American community, as well as the Jewish community," she said.

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 U.S. 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 turnout for Trump rival Nikki Haley, who won nearly 40% of Republican votes in her home state of South Carolina on Saturday, could offer signs about the number of Republicans who harbor doubts about a second four-year Trump term.

Michigan's Republican Party this year will allocate its delegates to July's party convention based on both Tuesday's primary, open to all voters, and a caucus on Saturday in which active party members choose the nominee.

Beset by chaos among warring factions, the Michigan Republican Party will hold competing caucus meetings on Saturday. Trump is expected to easily win the primary and the caucuses. Opinion polls show him holding an average statewide lead of nearly 57 percentage points over Haley, according to the poll tracking website FiveThirtyEight.

Still, the results in Michigan will be watched to see how much Trump struggles to attract large numbers of moderates and traditional Republicans, voters he will likely need to win back the White House in November.

Trump has soundly defeated Haley in all of the Republican nominating contests so far, but Haley has performed well with moderate voters, exposing a potential vulnerability for Trump in the general election.

After losing to Trump in Saturday's primary in South Carolina, Haley vowed to carry on despite having no clear path to the nomination. She campaigned in Michigan on Monday and will visit many of the 15 states that vote on March 5, known as Super Tuesday.

"I'm not going to stop when 70% of Americans say they don't want Donald Trump or Joe Biden," Haley told CNN on Tuesday. "We're gonna give them an option."

Reporting by Nandita Bose in Detroit, Tim Reid in Washington; Additional reporting by Katharine Jackson and Susan Heavey Editing by Colleen Jenkins, Heather Timmons, Howard Goller and Jonathan Oatis