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The latest on the presidential primary in battleground state Michigan

AILSA CHANG, HOST:

The 2024 presidential primary season continues, and Michigan appears poised to follow the script of states that have already voted. That means lopsided victories for both President Biden and former President Trump. Even so, there are still interesting storylines to watch, and to talk about those storylines, NPR national political correspondent Don Gonyea, who is based in Michigan, joins us now. Hey, Don.

DON GONYEA, BYLINE: Hey - good to be here.

CHANG: So, I mean, it goes without saying Michigan is important. Trump won the state in 2016, Biden in 2020. What has the campaign been like there this week with the vote coming just - what? - three days after South Carolina's primaries?

GONYEA: Yeah, it's not exactly been rush hour for the leading candidates. Trump was last here more than a week ago for a rally. Nikki Haley has been in suburban Detroit and Grand Rapids the past two days. She's attracted small but loyal crowds. Biden was here earlier this month for a visit to a UAW phone bank operation. The UAW - United Auto Workers - have, of course, endorsed him. Vice President Harris was here talking reproductive rights. But it hasn't been as busy as other primary seasons. But there is something interesting going on. The primary has also been a chance for protests against Biden policies. Specifically, Arab American and Muslim voters are angry that the U.S. continues to support Israel and that Biden hasn't called for a permanent cease-fire in Gaza.

CHANG: Right. And how exactly are those voters protesting this election?

GONYEA: So the protest is asking voters to choose uncommitted on their ballot. That's literally a box they can check on their ballot to withhold their support for Biden to send him a message that his policies need to change drastically. Arab American and Muslim voters are a small but important voting bloc here. So the goal of the campaign is to get 10,000 votes for uncommitted to act as a warning that, if these voters stay home or go third party come November, then Biden could lose the state. The Biden team, meanwhile, says it's committed to earning every vote here. But these protesters say he's not earned their vote and that there needs to be a permanent cease-fire now.

CHANG: OK. Well, despite those protests, the results of this primary is pretty much - well, is widely expected that both Biden and Trump will come through to win the state. But even if primaries - you know, in a year like this one, where there really doesn't seem to be much of a contest, what can they show us?

GONYEA: You know, it tells us who turns out and who the die-hard voters are. It shows us what's important to them. Biden has to hang on to his core voters, and we'll get a sense of that today. Black voters, union members, young voters, suburban voters, especially suburban women - all those are voting groups you're going to see Trump trying to peel some votes off for himself. He had some success at that when he won in 2016. But 2020, Biden held that coalition together and carried Michigan and the election. So Biden's got to hang on to those voters. Trump is going to be looking for ways to try to woo some of them.

CHANG: That is NPR's Don Gonyea. Thank you, Don.

GONYEA: It's my pleasure. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

You're most likely to find NPR's Don Gonyea on the road, in some battleground state looking for voters to sit with him at the local lunch spot, the VFW or union hall, at a campaign rally, or at their kitchen tables to tell him what's on their minds. Through countless such conversations over the course of the year, he gets a ground-level view of American elections. Gonyea is NPR's National Political Correspondent, a position he has held since 2010. His reports can be heard on all NPR News programs and at NPR.org. To hear his sound-rich stories is akin to riding in the passenger seat of his rental car, traveling through Iowa or South Carolina or Michigan or wherever, right along with him.