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Here are the stakes for Biden as Michigan wraps up the primary

AILSA CHANG, HOST:

It is presidential primary day in Michigan. On the Democratic side, President Biden faces little competition, but there is a group choosing to vote uncommitted. NPR's Elena Moore is here to talk about the movement behind that. Hey, Elena.

ELENA MOORE, BYLINE: Hey there.

CHANG: OK. So walk us through what this uncommitted campaign entails.

MOORE: Right. So it's called Listen to Michigan. It started, actually, less than a month ago, largely by Arab and Muslim organizers in their 20s and 30s. And many of them are from Dearborn, which is a city pretty close to Detroit where more than half the population is of Middle Eastern or North African descent. And the campaign is basically demanding Biden call for an immediate and permanent cease-fire in Gaza and stop sending U.S. aid to Israel. Of course, we know that Biden announced just yesterday that a potential temporary cease-fire may be coming soon, but that is not sufficient to these organizers, and they tell me it doesn't change their message here.

CHANG: OK. Well, as Biden and his campaign have been watching this primary, I mean, what are the stakes in particular in Michigan for them, especially after today?

MOORE: I mean, well, Listen to Michigan, the campaign, is hoping they can get at least 10,000 uncommitted votes. That was around the margin Hillary Clinton lost by, you know, to Trump in 2016. And of course, that 10,000 number is much, much smaller than Biden's campaign margin in 2020, which was more like 150,000 votes. But, you know, this campaign - the Listen to Michigan campaign - could be a real test for Biden. Ever since Israel's war in Gaza started, factions of his Democratic base that helped him win in 2020 in Michigan have been really angry and hurt by the president not calling for a stop to the violence. And important note - many of these advocates voted for Biden in 2020 and call themselves Democrats. But the point of this campaign is about changing Biden's policy, not necessarily swearing him off in November.

CHANG: Right. OK. Well, I know, Elena, that you've been speaking with a lot of these voters the past several days in Michigan, and what are you hearing specifically from them?

MOORE: I've been in the Detroit metro area talking really specifically with younger voters. I met 31-year-old Morgan Newald coming out of her polling place in Ferndale, which is a suburb of Detroit.

MORGAN NEWALD: I usually vote Democratic Party because Republicans don't have my interests in mind, but I'm finding out that Democrats don't either.

MOORE: You know, she voted uncommitted because protecting the human rights of others is her top priority, she said. And she told me she's done with Biden. She will not be voting for him in November. For others I spoke with, there's more of a general disappointment in Biden as the 2024 choice. Here's 24-year-old MaKayla Stevens. You know, she told me that Biden hasn't really followed through on his promises, like, for example, widespread student loan forgiveness, a move that was halted by the Supreme Court.

MAKAYLA STEVENS: I feel like that was really embarrassing, like, to say the least. It was really, like, a slap in the face. I am $40,000 in student debt right now, all simply for an education that hasn't really put me in front of my peers so far.

MOORE: And when we talked this weekend, Stevens told me she was weighing voting uncommitted, arguing there are a bunch of problems in the U.S. that Biden should focus on instead of helping Israel.

CHANG: And real quick, Elena, before we let you go, what's been happening on the Republican side of things in Michigan?

MOORE: Former South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley actually had two rallies in the state leading up to today, but now she's headed to some Super Tuesday states. And Haley has promised to continue through Super Tuesday, which - spoiler alert - is a week from today. And as for former President Donald Trump, who is expected to win the Republican primary tonight, he participated in a virtual rally last night. And a campaign official tells me that he plans to call into the Michigan GOP victory party tonight.

CHANG: That is NPR's Elena Moore in Detroit. Thank you so much, Elena.

MOORE: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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Elena Moore
Elena Moore is a production assistant for the NPR Politics Podcast. She also fills in as a reporter for the NewsDesk. Moore previously worked as a production assistant for Morning Edition. During the 2020 presidential campaign, she worked for the Washington Desk as an editorial assistant, doing both research and reporting. Before coming to NPR, Moore worked at NBC News. She is a graduate of The George Washington University in Washington, D.C., and is originally and proudly from Brooklyn, N.Y.