Michigan could make or break Joe Biden’s campaign

Michigan is where presidential dreams live or die. Donald Trump surprisingly won the state by fewer than 12,000 votes in 2016. Joe Biden took the Wolverine State back for Democrats in 2020, but the president might have a tough time repeating his performance this year. 

“Michigan Dems have a warning for Biden,” Politico announced, as the president visited the state on Thursday. Arab American voters are a powerful bloc in the state, and many are angry about his support for Israel’s war in the Gaza Strip. “My suggestion has been that he sit down with Arab American leaders in Michigan and hear what they have to say,” said Rep. Dan Kildee (D-Mich.). That’s difficult: Michigan Arab leaders — including Dearborn Mayor Abdullah Hammoud — turned down an opportunity to meet Biden.

Which is why Biden spent the day instead campaigning at a United Auto Workers hall in the Detroit suburbs. “We’re going to fight like hell,” UAW President Shawn Fain told union members. “And we’re going to ensure that Joe Biden is the next president.”

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Discontent over the Israel-Hamas war will make that task tougher. Michigan has become a “quagmire” for Biden, The Hill reported. “It’s a competitive state, and the Arab American issue is one that’s got to be taken seriously,” said Rep. Debbie Dingell (D-Mich.). But that community of voters feels “deep betrayal” because of Biden’s support of Israel. Which means the state — and the presidency itself — is “up for grabs.”

Fragility in the ‘blue wall’

Michigan should be friendly ground for Biden, The Associated Press noted. The state has “increasingly shifted Democratic” in recent years, and Democrats control both the governor’s mansion and the legislature. Along with Wisconsin and Pennsylvania, the state has typically formed a Democratic “blue wall” of electoral votes — though Clinton’s loss in 2016 proved there are exceptions to that rule. But the party’s “largest base” is in Detroit’s Wayne County, which is also home to a substantial number of those Arab voters. 

Al Jazeera reported that while Biden was meeting with UAW workers, protesters gathered to register their displeasure over Gaza, some carrying “Genocide Joe has got to go” signs. “There is nothing that will ever make me vote for a genocidal president, ever,” said one protester. “Not only me, but everybody else. My whole Arab community will never vote for this man.” 

That’s not where Biden’s troubles stop. The Conversation pointed out that while the UAW has endorsed the president’s election, rank-and-file workers might not go along. During the 2020 election, 40% of those union members voted for Donald Trump. There was “no chance” UAW would back Trump. “Donald Trump is a billionaire, and that’s who he represents,” said union president Shawn Fain. That could “tip the balance” in Biden’s favor. But lots of workers still like Trump, no matter who their union is supporting.  

‘The level of concern is growing’

“Michigan is flashing warning signs for President Biden’s re-election bid,” The Wall Street Journal reported. One thing working in Biden’s favor, though, is that the state’s Republican Party is a mess: Officials are trying to remove the party chairperson from her post — GOP finances have cratered during her tenure — in a battle “that has the potential to make Trump’s turnout efforts in Michigan harder.” Still, one Democratic strategist said, “the level of concern is growing and it should be.”

“If Biden can’t win Michigan, then forget it,” Patrick Healy argued in The New York Times. It’s the “swing state that matters the most” for his re-election. Under normal circumstances, Michigan should be the easiest state in the blue wall to recapture — abortion politics have solidified Democratic gains after the downfall of Roe v. Wade. These aren’t normal times. Biden will have to work. “Keep your eyes on those Biden trips to Michigan this year; there will be more of them.”

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