Why Minnesota’s ‘Uncommitted’ Vote Is a Real Threat to Biden’s Re-Election

Photo Illustration by The Daily Beast / Getty
Photo Illustration by The Daily Beast / Getty

President Joe Biden all but locked down the Democratic nomination Tuesday, but his weakness in Minnesota should serve as a flashing red warning light for Democrats, both here and in the more purple battleground states.

Despite no money and a bare-bones, last-minute organization, the “Uncommitted” line pulled nearly 19 percent, as progressive voters sought to send a message to Biden that he needs to change his policy toward Israel and its ongoing war in Gaza if he’s to earn their vote.

State Sen. Omar Fateh, a Minneapolis Democrat, said his “uncommitted” vote is “a warning to the Biden administration that, unless they are to take immediate and dramatic action to stop Israel from continuing the genocide, they cannot expect support of progressives.”

‘Uncommitted’ Gaza Protest Vote Pulls in Nearly 20% in Minnesota

Minnesota, home to the nation’s largest population of Somali-Americans, has a sizable Muslim population, and many of them are animated by the Israel-Gaza war.

But Biden’s problems extended to white progressives, especially in the Twin Cities.

As Minnesota Reformer’s Chris Ingraham reported Wednesday, “Uncommitted” captured a majority in two state House districts in Minneapolis. It also won a plurality of votes in a third. In 15 additional districts the campaign notched at least one quarter of the Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party (DFL) vote.

As many others have pointed out, Biden is boxed in: If he were to be perceived as abandoning Israel, he’d lose as much or even more support from crucial Jewish and pro-Israel voters.

The final tally was about 46,000 votes for “uncommitted,” which is an ominous number because Donald Trump lost to Hillary Clinton by about 44,000 votes in 2016.

“I hope this serves as a wakeup call for the Biden folks, and that they make a decision to pour money and resources into the state,” said Jim Manley, the longtime D.C. Democratic operative who moved back home to Minnesota last year.

Just as concerning for the Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party here, Trump drew more votes than Biden on Tuesday.

That could be chalked up to Trump having a real competitor in former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley on Super Tuesday (she has since suspended her campaign), but the low Democratic turnout is a striking outcome in a state known for high turnout.

Alyssa Farah Griffin: Even in Defeat, Haley Exposed Trump’s Demographic Weaknesses

In 2020, roughly 750,000 Democrats voted in the presidential primary, albeit with Democratic favorites like Sens. Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, as well as Biden and Minnesota’s own Sen. Amy Klobuchar on the ballot.

This year’s Democratic turnout was just one-third of 2020’s.

Jeff Blodgett, the dean of Minnesota Democratic operatives, was sanguine about the low DFL turnout, citing the lack of a real contest, and he remains optimistic, he told me. “Some people seem to look at Trump’s four years in office through a gauzy film. That’s going to change because there’s going to be a real campaign, and our side has to make clear the choice we’ve got. I’m confident that’s going to happen.”

After a surprising trifecta win during the 2022 midterms, and the passage of a bevy of progressive laws during the 2023 legislative session, Minnesota has earned a reputation as a blue bastion. But recent history suggests otherwise.

That same year Trump nearly toppled Clinton here, Republicans captured both chambers of the legislature.

Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz, who is also chair of the Democratic Governors Association and a strong Biden ally, is not exactly of the Minnesota progressive left, but he knows it well, and he was conciliatory during a CNN interview Tuesday night.

‘Uncommitted’ Voters Must Accept Trump Is Much, Much Worse Than Biden

The message of “Uncommitted” voters, he said, “is clear that they think this is an intolerable situation and that we can do more. And I think the president is hearing that.”

Biden beat Trump with relative ease here in 2020, by seven percentage points, even though Trump spent loads of time and money in the state. (We were on the receiving end of Trump’s personal COVID-19 case when he visited Duluth in October 2020—a super spreader event.)

By beating Trump, Biden continued a Democratic winning streak in presidential elections that goes back to 1972, the nation’s longest.

But even if Biden is the likely winner here, his weakness in Minnesota on Super Tuesday could still be a harbinger of something far worse in the rest of the Midwest—without which he’ll lose to Trump in the November general election.

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