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Biden, Trump to Face Tests in Michigan 02/27 06:07

   

   WASHINGTON (AP) -- While Joe Biden and Donald Trump are marching toward 
their respective presidential nominations, Michigan's primary on Tuesday could 
reveal significant political perils for both of them.

   Trump, despite his undoubted dominance of the Republican contests this year, 
is facing a bloc of stubbornly persistent GOP voters who favor his lone 
remaining rival, former U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley, and who are skeptical at 
best about the former president's prospects in a rematch against Biden.

   As for the incumbent president, Biden is confronting perhaps his most potent 
electoral obstacle yet: an energized movement of disillusioned voters upset 
with his handling of the war in Gaza and a relationship with Israeli Prime 
Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that critics say has been too supportive.

   Those dynamics will be put to the test in Michigan, the last major primary 
state before Super Tuesday and a critical swing state in November's general 
election. Even if they post dominant victories as expected on Tuesday, both 
campaigns will be looking at the margins for signs of weakness in a state that 
went for Biden by just 3 percentage points last time.

   Biden said in a local Michigan radio interview Monday that it would be "one 
of the five states" that would determine the winner in November.

   Michigan has the largest concentration of Arab Americans in the nation, and 
more than 310,000 residents are of Middle Eastern or North African ancestry. 
Nearly half of Dearborn's roughly 110,000 residents claim Arab ancestry.

   It has become the epicenter of Democratic discontent with the White House's 
actions in the Israel-Hamas war, now nearly five months old, following Hamas' 
deadly Oct. 7 attack and kidnapping of more than 200 hostages. Israel has 
bombarded much of Gaza in response, killing nearly 30,000 people, two-thirds of 
them women and children, according to Palestinian figures.

   Democrats angry that Biden has supported Israel's offensive and resisted 
calls for a ceasefire are rallying voters on Tuesday to instead select 
"uncommitted."

   The "uncommitted" effort, which began in earnest just a few weeks ago, has 
been backed by officials such as Democratic Rep. Rashida Tlaib, the first 
Palestinian-American woman in Congress, and former Rep. Andy Levin, who lost a 
Democratic primary two years ago after pro-Israel groups spent more than $4 
million to defeat him.

   Abbas Alawieh, spokesperson for the Listen to Michigan campaign that has 
been rallying for the "uncommitted" campaign, said the effort is a "way for us 
to vote for a ceasefire, a way for us to vote for peace and a way for us to 
vote against war."

   Trump won the state by just 11,000 votes in 2016 over Democratic candidate 
Hillary Clinton, and then lost the state four years later by nearly 154,000 
votes to Biden. Alawieh said the "uncommitted" effort wants to show that they 
have at least the number of votes that were Trump's margin of victory in 2016, 
to demonstrate how influential that bloc can be.

   "The situation in Gaza is top of mind for a lot of people here," Alawieh 
said. "President Biden is failing to provide voters for whom the war crimes 
that are being inflicted by our U.S. taxpayer dollars -- he's failing to 
provide them with something to vote for."

   Our Revolution, the organizing group once tied to Sen. Bernie Sanders, 
I-Vt., has also urged progressive voters to choose "uncommitted" on Tuesday, 
saying it would send a message to Biden to "change course NOW on Gaza or else 
risk losing Michigan to Trump in November."

   Rep. Ro Khanna, D-Calif., a Biden backer who held several meetings and 
listening sessions in Michigan late last week, said he told community members 
that, despite his disagreements over the war, he would nonetheless support 
Biden because he represents a much better chance of peace in the Middle East 
than Trump.

   "I also said that I admire those who are using their ballot in a 
quintessentially American way to bring about a change in policy," Khanna said 
Monday, adding that Biden supporters need to proactively engage with the 
uncommitted voters to try and "earn back their trust."

   "The worst thing we can do is try to shame them or try to downplay their 
efforts," he said.

   Trump has drawn enthusiastic crowds at most of his rallies, including a Feb. 
17 rally outside Detroit drawing more than 2,000 people who packed into a 
frigid airplane hangar.

   But data from AP VoteCast, a series of surveys of Republican voters in Iowa, 
New Hampshire and South Carolina, reveals that his core voters so far are 
overwhelmingly white, mostly older than 50 and generally without a college 
degree. He will likely have to appeal to a far more diverse group of voters in 
November. And he has underperformed his statewide results in suburban areas 
that are critical in states like Michigan.

   Several of Trump's favored picks in Michigan's 2022 midterm contests lost 
their campaigns, further underscoring his loss of political influence in the 
state. Meanwhile, the state GOP has been riven with divisions among various 
pro-Trump factions, potentially weakening its power at a time when Michigan 
Republicans are trying to lay the groundwork to defeat Biden this fall.

   Both Biden and Trump have so far dominated their respective primary bids. 
Biden has sailed to wins in South Carolina, Nevada and New Hampshire, with the 
latter victory coming in through a write-in campaign. Trump has swept all the 
early state contests and his team is hoping to lock up the delegates needed to 
secure the Republican nomination by mid-March.

   Nonetheless, an undeterred Haley has promised to continue her longshot 
presidential primary campaign through at least Super Tuesday on March 5, when 
15 states and one territory hold their nominating contests.

   As Haley stumped across Michigan on Sunday and Monday, voters showing up to 
her events expressed enthusiasm for her in Tuesday's primary -- even though, 
given her losses in the year's first four states, it seemed increasingly likely 
she wouldn't win the nomination.

   "She seems honorable," said Rita Lazdins, a retired microbiologist from 
Grand Haven, Michigan, who in an interview Monday refused to say Trump's name. 
"Honorable is not what that other person is. I hate to say that, but it's so 
true."

 
 
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