All Over But the Benchmarking

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The actual vote totals and percentages are coming into focus. So there’s a lot of pivoting to what they mean. As of this moment President Biden has about 80% of the vote and uncommitted has 14%. That’s been pretty consistent for a while. But there are major differences by county and towns and cities here. So the results might be bouncier than normal as more votes come in. I noted one numbers guy I follow closely who pointed to 17% as a threshold based on historical comparisons for “uncommitted.” As the results have come in there’s been a lot of shifting among “uncommitted” supporters from percentages to raw vote totals. The raw numbers are high. But overall turnout is really high too. So you can kind of play this either way you want. Raw votes go up with turnout. That’s elementary. Percentages are the key metric. Or you can say that raw votes matter since raw votes will be the margin in the general. The truth is that you simply can’t make linear comparisons like that.

It remains the case that the Israel-Hamas war has been highly divisive for the Democratic coalition. The Biden campaign will need to work hard to reunite it going into November. That applies to the Arab-American community, the Muslim-American community and to a lesser but real degree young and non-white voters more generally. This is especially the case in Michigan which has a substantial Arab-American community, is always close in presidential elections and is a must win. Even limited disaffection is a big deal.

My take on this is that both sides got enough that they can feel okay about the result. Neither side has to sulk. Michael McDonald, a political scientist out of Florida, I think summed this up the best when he noted that the number of raw votes in the Democratic primary is almost as high as the purportedly contested GOP primary. He says that the “‘uncommitted’ protest gave other Democrats a reason to vote. While a takeaway may be there is some vulnerability for Biden in the general election, another is the party is overwhelmingly standing behind him.”

That rings true to me. There’s a significant protest vote here — centered on the college campuses and the state’s Arab-American community. But the anticipation of that protest vote spurred a ton of Biden supporting Dems to turn out in a contest they would have otherwise ignored.

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