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In Michigan, Republicans Sense Opportunity as Biden Faces Challenges
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In Michigan, Republicans Sense Opportunity as Biden Faces Challenges

Plus: Republican voters in Pennsylvania turn out in numbers for Nikki Haley.

Happy Wednesday! And while we’re watching all the campus protests over Israel’s war with Hamas with great interest, it’s good to note that the issue is hardly at the top of most young voters’ list of concerns.

Up to Speed

  • Former President Donald Trump on Monday twice defended Speaker Mike Johnson just days after the House of Representatives passed $95 billion in aid to Taiwan, Israel, and Ukraine. “Remember, the speakership we’re talking about has, you know, we’re a majority by one. One vote,” Trump told conservative radio host Chris Stigall. He added that “you can’t really get too tough” and that “Mike is in there, and he’s trying.” Separately, he told John Fredericks, another conservative radio host: “Well, look, we have a majority of one, OK? It’s not like he can go and do whatever he wants to do. I think he’s a very good person.” Trump’s comments come as the threat of a motion to vacate from Reps. Marjorie Taylor Greene, Thomas Massie, and Paul Gosar still looms over Johnson’s head.
  • President Joe Biden on Wednesday morning signed that aid package approved by the House, which in addition to the foreign aid will also compel TikTok’s Chinese parent company, ByteDance, to divest from the app. His signature came after the Senate passed the package Tuesday night with broad bipartisan support. Seventy-nine senators voted in favor of the package, while 18—three Democrats and 15 Republicans—voted against. 
  • Asked at a press conference hours before the Senate’s vote why it took so long to convince Republicans to support the aid, Minority Leader Mitch McConnell partially blamed conservative commentator Tucker Carlson. “I think the demonization of Ukraine began by Tucker Carlson, who, in my opinion, ended up where he should have been all along, which is interviewing Vladimir Putin,” McConnell said, adding that Carlson’s following made Republicans more skeptical of Ukraine aid. He also said Trump had “mixed views” on the aid and that the former president “didn’t seem to want us to do anything at all” while legislators were attempting to tie the aid to border security measures.
  • On Tuesday, Biden traveled to Tampa, Florida, to deliver a speech about abortion. “Now in America today in 2024, women have fewer rights than their mothers and grandmothers had—because of Donald Trump,” he told the crowd gathered at a community college. His trip comes a week before a six-week abortion restriction in the state goes into effect, and his campaign has said the presence of a referendum on the ballot this November that would put a right to abortion into the state constitution makes Florida winnable for the Democratic president.
  • Trump won Tuesday’s presidential primary in Pennsylvania, but a sizable number of voters pulled the lever for former U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley, who dropped out more than a month ago. The former president took about 83 percent of the vote, while Haley received nearly 16.5 percent, or about 156,000 votes, in a closed primary—meaning only registered Republicans were allowed to participate. Protest votes in favor of Haley have been a persistent problem for Trump, signaling a portion of the GOP is dissatisfied with him despite his status as the presumptive nominee. Biden won the state in 2020 by about 80,000 votes, while Trump won it in 2016 by about 44,000. Democratic Sen. Bob Casey and Republican challenger Dave McCormick both won their respective primaries, setting up one of the marquee Senate races of the year.

Joe Biden’s Fine Line in Michigan

From left, Zarina Malik of Rochester Hills, Farah Khan of Northville, and Latifa Jamel of Dearborn Heights watch President Joe Biden make his introduction during a State of the Union watch party at Adonis in Dearborn, Michigan on March 7, 2024. (Photo by Nic Antaya for The Washington Post via Getty Images)
From left, Zarina Malik of Rochester Hills, Farah Khan of Northville, and Latifa Jamel of Dearborn Heights watch President Joe Biden make his introduction during a State of the Union watch party at Adonis in Dearborn, Michigan on March 7, 2024. (Photo by Nic Antaya for The Washington Post via Getty Images)

Of all the swing states where President Joe Biden is under threat from presumptive Republican nominee Donald Trump, Michigan may present the most complications.

We know what you might be thinking: The Arab American vote. And it’s true, this usually reliable Democratic constituency is threatening to abandon Biden. These voters are upset with support for Israel as the Jewish state prosecutes a war in Gaza to root out Hamas in the wake of the terrorist group’s October 7 invasion.

But as David Drucker discovered on his trip to Michigan this month, in meetings with Republicans from the state capital of Lansing to the suburbs of Detroit, Biden’s challenges in Michigan are multifold. From his article, which hit our website this morning:

Much has since been written about Biden’s political triangulation on Israel, but the president’s problems in Michigan do not begin and end with the state’s disproportionately large Arab American community. Some Republican officials The Dispatch spoke with this month cited the porous southern border, more than 1,500 miles away, as one of the leading concerns of voters in the state—especially after a man who entered the United States illegally from Mexico allegedly murdered a woman in Grand Rapids on March 22. Others credit inflation for Biden’s political woes, arguing that, although unemployment is low and people are working, paychecks just aren’t stretching far enough, causing palpable anxiety that has voters fondly recalling the pre-pandemic economy over which Trump presided.

Biden’s allies will push back on those premises to varying degrees, but Republican and Democratic officials alike were largely aligned on one thing: The current state of the polls in Michigan has less to do with Trump winning voters than Biden losing them. 

“People thought Biden was a bit more moderate than he has turned out to be the last three, three-and-a-half years. He’s jammed through a ton of progressive policies,” Aric Nesbitt, leader of the Michigan Senate’s Republican minority, told The Dispatch. “I think there’s a lot of questions about [Biden’s] age and capacity.”

Top Democrats in the state aren’t disputing that Trump—combined with independent Robert F. Kennedy Jr., who will be on the state’s ballot—poses a real threat to flip Michigan back into the Republican column. “I would say it is absolutely competitive, which we always knew it would be,” Michigan Democratic Party Chairwoman Lavora Barnes acknowledged. “We knew this was not going to be a cakewalk.”

“But we will win Michigan,” she quickly added.

You can read the rest of Drucker’s reporting here, including whether Republicans believe they might be able to make gains with Jewish voters in Michigan, given the president’s overtures to Arab Americans and younger voters, who are upset with his stalwart support for Israel.  

Notable and Quotable

“One way of ending the demonstrations on Gaza would be to name me president of Harvard because then the demonstrations would all be about getting rid of President Romney. There would be mayhem.”

—Sen. Mitt Romney of Utah on Pennsylvania Sen. John Fetterman’s suggestion that he take over as president of Harvard University, April 23, 2024

David M. Drucker is a senior writer at The Dispatch and is based in Washington, D.C. Prior to joining the company in 2023, he was a senior correspondent for the Washington Examiner. When Drucker is not covering American politics for The Dispatch, he enjoys hanging out with his two boys and listening to his wife's excellent taste in music.

Charles Hilu is a reporter for The Dispatch based in Virginia. Before joining the company in 2024, he was the Collegiate Network Fellow at the Washington Free Beacon and interned at both National Review and the Washington Examiner. When he is not writing and reporting, he is probably listening to show tunes or following the premier sports teams of the University of Michigan and city of Detroit.

Michael Warren is a senior editor at The Dispatch and is based in Washington, D.C. Prior to joining the company in 2023, he was an on-air reporter at CNN and a senior writer at the Weekly Standard. When Mike is not reporting, writing, editing, and podcasting, he is probably spending time with his wife and three sons.