Skip to main content
Bridge Michigan
Michigan’s nonpartisan, nonprofit news source

Michigan primary 2024: Crossover, ‘uncommitted’ efforts target Trump, Biden

Character Illustration of Joe Biden facing Donald Trump
Joe Biden and Donald Trump are seeking momentum from Michigan’s 2024 presidential primary on Feb. 27. (Marvin Ruiter /
  • Donald Trump and Joe Biden are heavy favorites in the Michigan primary but face organized opposition efforts
  • An outside group is urging Democrats to back Nikki Haley over Trump in order to ‘damage’ him heading into general election
  • Another group is asking Israel-Hamas war critics to send a message to Biden by voting ‘uncommitted’ in the Democratic primary

Feb. 29: Detroit is big for Joe Biden. Primary turnout was small
Feb. 28: Michigan 2024 results: 13% of Democrats ‘uncommitted.’ Will it matter to Biden?

LANSING – President Joe Biden and former President Donald Trump are widely expected to win Michigan’s Democratic and Republican primaries on Tuesday.

But how they win — and where they struggle — could say volumes about both candidates heading toward a likely rematch in the November general election. 


Trump is looking to fend off former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley, and she’s getting some help from a left-leaning group that is urging suburban Democratic voters he lost in 2020 to cross over and vote against him in the GOP primary. 


Biden is running against U.S. Rep. Dean Phillips of Minnesota, but it’s Israel-Hamas war critics who could end up embarrassing him if they are able to convince a wide swath of voters to cast “uncommitted” ballots in protest.

Here are some key storylines to watch tomorrow on Election Day in Michigan, where polls will close at 8 p.m. and results will soon follow. 

Will Dems cross over to ‘damage’ Trump?

Nikki Haley campaigned for Republican votes Sunday in Troy, where she pitched herself as a more electable candidate than Trump.

But her ability to challenge Trump in the Michigan primary may also depend on whether Democrats cross over to vote for Haley in the GOP race, a maneuver at least one outside organization is encouraging. 

A group called PrimaryPivot, and its PrimaryPower nonprofit, this weekend sent text messages to 260,000 Michigan Democrats asking them to help "defend democracy by voting in the more competitive primary" on Tuesday. 

Biden is going to win the Democratic contest in a "landslide" and "uncommitted" is only a protest vote, read one text. “On the Republican side, Nikki Haley supports democracy. Donald Trump is a proud election denier. The stakes could not be higher."

The left-leaning group, which has also been active in other states, is targeting suburban voters with higher education and income levels who are more likely to consider a “strategic vote,” co-founder Robert Schwartz told Bridge Michigan. 

PrimaryPivot is not expecting Haley to win the Michigan primary but is hoping to both embarrass Trump and identify persuadable general election voters, Schwartz said Monday morning while driving to a Haley rally in Grand Rapids. 

"The way to keep Haley in this race and damaging Trump is to vote for her and vote against Trump," he said, suggesting a 35% showing in the Michigan primary would be “hugely successful for her.”

Will ‘uncommitted’ hurt Biden?

Some Democratic voters are unhappy with Biden not calling for a cease-fire in the ongoing Israel-Hamas war and hope to make that known at the ballot box by voting “uncommitted” in the Michigan primary. 

Organizers behind the “Listen to Michigan” campaign hope that a large uncommitted vote in the Democratic Party will pressure the White House to change course  — especially as the death toll for Palestinian civilians continues to climb — by showing Biden he may not be able to count on them in November.

The effort has the backing of U.S. Rep. Rashida Tlaib, state House Majority Floor Leader Abraham Aiyash and Dearborn Mayor Abdullah Hammoud, among others.

Whether the “uncommitted” vote will make a difference remains to be seen. 

Arguably Michigan’s most successful turn out for an “uncommitted” vote effort was in 2008, when then-candidate Barack Obama did not appear on Michigan’s primary ballots. At that time, nearly 238,168 individuals, or just over 40%, voted uncommitted to signal their preference.

Since then, however, uncommitted votes have only declined. They accounted for less than 2% of the vote in both the 2016 and 2020 Michigan Democratic presidential primaries.

And so far, there’s no indication that Arab American voters — who may be particularly interested in Biden’s stance on the war — are going to flood the ballot box, said Mark Grebner of Practical Political Consulting, who is also a Democratic Ingham County commissioner. 

Instead, early absentee ballot data suggests Arab Americans are voting at a very low rate, which suggests many may sit out the primary rather than cast a protest vote, according to Grebner 

"What people are actually doing is demonstrating that they're just unhappy about this election," he said Monday.

Will turnout dip?

More than 1 million Michiganders have already voted in the presidential primary by casting absentee ballots or taking advantage of the state's new early in-person voting period, which ended Sunday. That pre-Election Day vote is 13 percent higher than 2020, according to Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson. 

But experts are still predicting low overall turnout in the Michigan primary because neither the Republican nor Democratic races are expected to be particularly competitive. 

Trump has led Haley in all major polls of the GOP race, and Phillips has not presented any sort of threat to Biden in other early voting states.

"It's pretty unusual to have a completely meaningless primary this early on both sides — particularly one with such damaged front-runners," said Grebner, of Practical Political Consulting. 

Based on totals from absentee and early in-person voting, which was required in Michigan for the first time in a statewide election, Grebner is predicting about 1.9 million Michiganders will cast ballots in the primary election. 

That'd be down from 2.27 million in the 2020 primary, which featured a contested Democratic race to take on Trump. 

In Detroit, the state's largest city, Clerk Janice Winfrey is predicting turnout of 12% to 17%, which would be a significant drop from the 24% turnout in the 2020 primary. 

High-turnout elections tend to favor Democrats in Michigan. So a particularly low turnout in the primary could be a warning sign for Biden heading into the general election. 

Troubles for Trump in suburbs?

Since leaving office, Trump has been charged with alleged crimes in four separate cases, including a federal indictment stemming from his failed efforts to overturn his 2020 election loss in Michigan and other states. 

That doesn't matter much to Trump voters in northern Michigan, who told Bridge that the various prosecutions have only hardened their loyalty to the former president. “He gets more popular the more they charge him," said Don Edwards, a Montmorency County commissioner and former sheriff. 

But even if Trump dominates rural Michigan again, experts will be watching to see whether he continues to struggle with suburban voters who abandoned him in 2020, paving the way for Biden’s general election win. 

Trump this month used his first Michigan campaign stop of the year to rally voters in Oakland County, which swung heavily Democratic in 2020. 

If Haley does particularly well in Oakland County or other areas like Kent County, a former GOP stronghold that went for Biden four years ago, that could be a sign that Trump will face some of the same headwinds again this fall.

Haley campaigned in both counties ahead of the Tuesday primary, making stops in Troy and Grand Rapids. Sunday in Troy, she spent most of her time rallying voters to reject Biden and Trump while calling for a return to decorum in politics. 

It was a message that resonated with people like Bob and Karen Cowen of Farmington Hills. Despite voting for Trump in both 2016 and 2020, they couldn’t bring themselves to support him in the 2024 Republican presidential primary.


“Nikki Haley is devoted to America, to the American people,” said Karen Cowen, while Trump “is devoted to Donald Trump.”

Will young voters sit this one out?

Biden spent his only pre-primary campaign trip to Michigan meeting with United Auto Workers members in metro Detroit and urging union organizers to turn out the vote on Tuesday. 

But his campaign has quietly been attempting to address a weak spot that could hurt him this fall: Young voters, who widely backed Biden in 2020 but now appear turned off by his advancing age and verbal gaffes, according to recent polls. 

While Trump would also be an unusually old president if he wins in November, an open-ended survey question showed voters are more concerned about Biden's competency, and that's a "huge problem" for him, said pollster Richard Czuba.

"Joe Biden's No. 1 challenge right now is to win back young Democrats, particularly Democrats under 40," he said. "Young voters are essential to the Democratic coalition.”

Don’t expect big turnout on college campuses this week: Several, including Michigan State University and the University of Michigan, are on spring break. 

Editor’s note: In the 2008 Presidential primary, 238,168 uncommitted votes were cast on the Democratic ticket. This story was corrected on Feb. 27, 2024 because an earlier version misstated the number of uncommitted votes.

How impactful was this article for you?

Only donate if we've informed you about important Michigan issues

See what new members are saying about why they donated to Bridge Michigan:

  • “In order for this information to be accurate and unbiased it must be underwritten by its readers, not by special interests.” - Larry S.
  • “Not many other media sources report on the topics Bridge does.” - Susan B.
  • “Your journalism is outstanding and rare these days.” - Mark S.

If you want to ensure the future of nonpartisan, nonprofit Michigan journalism, please become a member today. You, too, will be asked why you donated and maybe we'll feature your quote next time!

Pay with VISA Pay with MasterCard Pay with American Express Pay with PayPal Donate Now