Gretchen Whitmer expects ‘sizable’ protest vote against Biden in Michigan: From the Politics Desk

Welcome to the online version of From the Politics Desk, an evening newsletter that brings you the NBC News Politics team’s latest reporting and analysis from the on the campaign trail, the White House and Capitol Hill.

In today’s edition, senior White House correspondent Gabe Gutierrez sits down with Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer ahead of the state’s presidential primary. Plus, national political correspondent Steve Kornacki breaks down why Nikki Haley’s opportunities to pick up delegates may be few and far between.

Whitmer goes to bat for Biden as he faces backlash in Michigan

By Gabe Gutierrez

KALAMAZOO, Mich. — Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer is attempting to smooth over Joe Biden’s rough edges ahead of the primary tomorrow in her home state, where the president is facing significant backlash over his handling of the Israel-Hamas war.

Whitmer, a national co-chair of Biden’s re-election campaign, acknowledged in an interview with NBC News on Monday that there will be a “sizable” number of protest votes against the president in Tuesday’s primary, taking place in a critical swing state where the margin of victory in November is expected to be razor thin.

Do you have a news tip? Let us know

Listen to Michigan, a group advocating for a cease-fire in Gaza, is aiming to get as many people to vote “uncommitted” in Tuesday’s primary as possible to protest Biden’s Middle East policies. The group’s goal: 10,000 votes.

“I think there will be a sizable number of votes for ‘uncommitted,’” Whitmer said. “I think that it is every person’s right to make their statement about what’s important to them.”

But Whitmer shrugged off a question about whether alarm bells should be going off for the Biden campaign in the state looking ahead to the general election.

“I think Michigan is the kind of state you can never take for granted,” she said. “Nor should you. It’s the most diverse swing state in the country. We have our primary earlier than usual and a lot of people are not accustomed to voting this early in the process here.”

Officials with the Biden campaign point out that in 2012, when President Barack Obama ran for re-election, 20,833 people voted “uncommitted” during the Democratic primary. And in 2020, 19,106 people voted “uncommitted.” So, they argue, 10,000 votes for “uncommitted” during this primary is not actually a high threshold.

Whitmer has been active on the campaign trail for Biden in the lead-up to her state’s primary: Her political action committee has held around two dozen events this month. An EPIC/MRA poll released earlier this month shows Whitmer is much more popular in Michigan than Biden: 53% of likely voters viewed her favorably, compared to just 38% for the president.

The governor has been reiterating one of Biden’s core messages that the GOP is dead set on slashing reproductive rights. Whitmer is now slamming Republicans who are distancing themselves from the Alabama court ruling that has put IVF in the state in jeopardy.

“It’s laughable and it’s insulting,” Whitmer said. “This was an exact consequence of the Trump appointees to the United States Supreme Court.”

Unlike California Gov. Gavin Newsom, another rising star in the Democratic Party who last week offered tongue-in-cheek encouragement to Nikki Haley to keep attacking Donald Trump, Whitmer had a terse response when asked about the former U.N. ambassador.

“I am not weighing in on the Republican side,” she said.

Asked what she would say to people within the Democratic Party who would like a younger candidate to replace Biden, Whitmer was blunt.

“I would say the train’s out of the station,” she said. “Get on board.”

Why Haley’s delegate math has a low ceiling

Analysis by Steve Kornacki

It turns out Nikki Haley didn’t walk away from South Carolina completely empty-handed. When all of the GOP primary votes were finally tabulated late Saturday night, she ended up ahead of Donald Trump in one of the state’s seven congressional districts.

Haley thus denied Trump a clean sweep, since South Carolina awards delegates based on the results statewide (29 delegates to the winner) and in each congressional district (3 delegates for each won).

The trouble for Haley moving forward is there aren’t many places out there that share the demographic mix of the district she won in South Carolina.

The above chart shows what an outlier the result in the 1st District was. Not coincidentally, the district is also a demographic outlier. The three counties that comprise the bulk of it are all among the most affluent and educated in the state: Berkeley, with its rapidly growing suburbs outside of Charleston, has the highest median household income of any of South Carolina’s 47 counties. Beaufort, which includes Hilton Head Island, has the second highest, and Charleston clocks in with the fourth highest. Overall, 47% of the 1st District’s white population has at least a college degree, the highest of all seven districts.

These characteristics — higher income, suburban-dwelling, college-educated and white — describe the segment of the Republican Party that has remained cool toward Trump since 2016, making the district unusually fertile turf for Haley. The same demographic features also describe the intensely engaged voters who, in the age of Trump, have shifted or deepened their allegiances to the Democratic Party. And since independents and Democrats were free to vote in Saturday’s Republican Party, this also provided Haley with an atypically large pool of potential anti-Trump crossover voters in South Carolina’s 1st District.

But replicating that performance in other areas will be difficult for Haley. And even in districts that are similar demographically, the rules will in many instances inhibit her. Several upcoming contests are caucuses, which are low-turnout affairs that tend to be dominated by core Republican voters. Some others are primaries that either don’t allow for non-Republicans to vote or that don’t allocate delegates by congressional district (or both).

Taking all of this into account, from now through Super Tuesday there are only somewhere between a dozen and two dozen districts (depending on the interpretation of RNC rules) in which the winner will receive all of the delegates and the concentration of white college-educated voters matches or exceeds that of South Carolina’s 1st District. There’s also a handful where delegates will be parceled out proportionally, potentially allowing Haley to pick up an extra delegate or two.

But there are more than 1,000 delegates total up for grabs in the next week, many of them in functionally winner-take-all states where there’s no reason to think Haley will be competitive. For Haley, succeeding in districts that are like the one she won on Saturday will likely do for her what it did in South Carolina — make a lopsided defeat a little less lopsided.

That’s all from The Politics Desk for now. If you have feedback — likes or dislikes — email us at

And if you’re a fan, please share with everyone and anyone. They can sign up here.

This article was originally published on

Leave a Comment