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Trump beats Nikki Haley, Joe Biden wins amid protest votes in Michigan primaries

This combo image shows President Joe Biden, left, Jan. 5, 2024, and Republican presidential candidate former President Donald Trump, right, Jan. 19, 2024.
AP
This combo image shows President Joe Biden, left, Jan. 5, 2024, and Republican presidential candidate former President Donald Trump, right, Jan. 19, 2024.

Updated February 28, 2024 at 9:08 AM ET

Both President Biden and former President Donald Trump have won their respective primary contests in Michigan, per a dual race call from the Associated Press.

Both candidates have swept every presidential contest they have participated in so far.

Biden's challengers, U.S. Rep. Dean Phillips of Minnesota and writer and spiritual leader Marianne Williamson, have done little to slow his path to the nomination. The president's most significant challenge in the Michigan primary came from factions of the party protesting his support of Israel – as the country continues to carry out deadly attacks in Gaza.

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Cease-fire activists in Michigan's growing Arab-American community urged voters in the Democratic primary to select the "uncommitted" option on their ballots in protest. And so far, more than 30,000 "uncommitted" votes were cast in the primary, which is far more than organizers where aiming for.

According to the AP, Biden has been allocated 58 delegates, as of Tuesday night.

Trump has now won six presidential contests for the GOP nomination. His remaining major challenger – former U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley – has not won a single contest so far.

As of Tuesday night, Trump was beating Haley by more than 30 percentage points and has been allocated 9 delegates, per the AP.

He called in to a Michigan GOP watch party after the race was called and thanked supporters in the state. Trump said he was "so proud of the results" in Michigan.

"The numbers are far greater than we even anticipated," he said.

Trump also told the crowd he has already set his sights to the November general election, even though he still has challenger in his bid for the nomination.

"We will be doing a lot of campaigning over the next couple of months," he said. "Nov. 5 cannot come fast enough."

Haley has vowed to stay in the race until at least Super Tuesday on March 5.

Despite the fact that both candidates continue to sail through these nominating contests, Haley has said she is staying in because many Americans are unhappy with both Biden and Trump.

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This is the first time Michigan holds its primaries in February. Last year — at Biden's request — Democratic Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmersigned legislation moving the state's presidential primaries from the second Tuesday in March to Feb. 27.

Who gets GOP delegates won't be settled tonight

The shift in timing, however, complicated things for Republicans in the state.

Per Republican National Committee rules, only Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina were allowed to hold primaries before March. So, in an effort to not break the RNC's rules, Republicans in Michigan won't be allocating the bulk of their delegates until March 2 — which is when the party plans to hold a caucus-style convention.

That means that only 16 out of the GOP's 55 delegates in Michigan are up for grabs today. The rest of the 39 delegates will be allocated in the state party's convention.

And that convention is going to be held during growingchaos and infighting within the Republican Party. There have beenvarious efforts within different factions of the party to oust Michigan party chair Kristina Karamo — and replace her with Pete Hoesktra, a former congressman and former United States ambassador to the Netherlands appointed by Trump.

Karamo has refused to step down and has said only a court order would compel her to resign from her position as chair of the party. This has created a lot of confusion as the party prepares to hold a first-of-its-kind caucus in Michigan during the state convention.

The push to be "uncommitted" to Biden

Even though Biden won the primary today, cease-fire activists in Michigan asked people casting ballots in the Democratic primary to vote for the "uncommitted" option as a form of protest of Biden's support for Israel.

While Democratic Rep. Rashida Tlaib of Michigan has endorsed the protest vote effort, Whitmer has not. She told CNN's State of the Union that "any vote that's not cast for Joe Biden supports a second Trump term." Whitmer said that a second term for Trump would be "devastating."

A significant amount of protest votes are likely to spell trouble for Biden in the fall. For one, Michigan is an important swing state that is likely to be very close.

Michigan — the Detroit area, in particular — hasa very large and growing Arab American population. Biden's support of Israel during the ongoing deadly attacks in Gaza have become a huge political liability for Biden among this voting bloc. A significant protest vote in Michigan could signal a weakness for Biden in the state come November, where even the smallest group of voters could be vital.

Either way, this is unlikely to affect Biden's ability to lock up most — if not all — of Michigan's 117 delegates that are up for grabs in the Democratic primary.

Copyright 2024 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Ashley Lopez
Ashley Lopez is a political correspondent for NPR based in Austin, Texas. She joined NPR in May 2022. Prior to NPR, Lopez spent more than six years as a health care and politics reporter for KUT, Austin's public radio station. Before that, she was a political reporter for NPR Member stations in Florida and Kentucky. Lopez is a graduate of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and grew up in Miami, Florida.
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