Michigan Democrats express electoral concerns for Biden over his response to Israel-Hamas war

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Elected Democrats in Michigan on Sunday expressed concerns about how President Joe Biden will perform in the state electorally ahead of the Tuesday primary, citing calls from the left for Michigan Democrats to vote uncommitted over his approach to the Israel-Hamas war.

During an interview on CNN’s “State of the Union,” Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, who serves as a surrogate in Biden’s re-election campaign, was asked about divisions within the Democratic Party over the Israel-Hamas war, with Democratic lawmakers such as Rep. Rashida Tlaib calling on voters to vote uncommitted in protest of Biden’s response to the war.

“How many uncommitted votes do you think we’re gonna see on Tuesday? How worried are you?” CNN anchor Dana Bash asked Whitmer.

Whitmer replied that she’s “not sure” how Tuesday’s primary will turn out, noting that Michigan has a “robust” Arab, Muslim and Palestinian community as well a “robust” Jewish community.

“We’ve lived in harmony as neighbors for decades, and there’s a lot of pain all across all of these communities because of what’s happening halfway around the world,” she said, adding that she expects to see “differences of opinion” reflected in the primary and stressed that she doesn’t want voters to “lose sight of the fact that any vote that’s not cast for Joe Biden supports a second Trump term.”

But Whitmer also acknowledged the “pain” people feel amid the Israel-Hamas war.

“I’m encouraging people to cast an affirmative vote for President Biden. I understand the pain that people are feeling and I’ll continue to work to build bridges with folks and all of these communities because they’re all important to me,” she said. “They’re all important to Michigan, and I know they’re all important to President Biden as well.”

Pressed on whether she is preparing for a sizable portion of the vote in the primary being uncommitted in protest to Biden’s handling of the war, Whitmer reiterated that she’s unsure of what to expect because of the state holding its primary earlier than usual, potential weather-related events and Michigan being a state “where the election is close.”

Rep. Debbie Dingell, D-Mich., also aired concerns over voter turnout in the state’s primary when asked whether it was a mistake for Biden not to meet with representatives from the Arab American community during his recent visit to Michigan.

“Look, I do believe that he is going to need to do that at some point down the road. This community is pretty angry right now,” she said Sunday on CBS’ “Face the Nation,” noting that her own events have been marked by protests.

Asked whether the push for voters to vote “uncommitted” will “damage [Biden] in a significant way,” Dingell did not answer directly.

“So I wanna say to, I know many of this community, I’ve lived in Dearborn for many years with my husband, and there are two campaigns,“ she said. “One is an abandon Biden campaign, but the other, the major campaign that has made over a hundred thousand calls, we’ll see how many people vote on Tuesday, are trying to make sure the president hears them.”

Dingell said that “ongoing conversations” between Biden’s team and the Arab American community must continue, especially because Michigan is considered a “purple state” in presidential elections.

Many on the left have pledged to vote uncommitted, arguing that Biden has mishandled the conflict in the Middle East. Tlaib, D-Mich., has joined progressive activists in urging Democrats to vote against Biden in the state’s primary on Tuesday, citing disagreements over the administration’s role in the war between Israel and Hamas. Tlaib, who is Palestinian American, has repeatedly called for a cease-fire in Gaza.

So far, moderates seem to support Biden’s approach — and they’re urging Democratic voters to support him in Michigan’s primary. A centrist Democratic pro-Israel group recently launched an ad campaign in Michigan ahead of the state’s primary urging voters to back Biden because “voting uncommitted hurts Biden, which helps [former President Donald] Trump and his hateful agenda.”

Representatives for the congressional offices of Sens. Gary Peters and Debbie Stabenow and Rep. Elissa Slotkin did not immediately respond to NBC News’ requests for comment.

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