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Dems, Republicans turn sights to November after Michigan presidential primary

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Dems, Republicans turn sights to November after Michigan presidential primary

Feb 28, 2024 | 4:22 am ET
By Andrew Roth
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Dems, Republicans turn sights to November after Michigan presidential primary
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U.S. Sen. Cory Booker on a virtual Michigan Democratic Party event, Feb. 27, 2024 | Screenshot

With President Joe Biden and former President Donald Trump both notching primary victories in Michigan as they seek their respective parties’ nominations, U.S. Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) joined a virtual event for the Michigan Democratic Party Tuesday night to officially kick off the party’s general election efforts.

Booker ran for president in the crowded 2020 Democratic primary, eventually dropping out and endorsing Biden. Booker appeared at a March 2020 Biden rally in Detroit along with Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and future Vice President Kamala Harris the day before Biden won the primary.

The senator noted that Michigan is the 10th most populous state in the country, immediately trailed by New Jersey in 11th place.

“But New Jersey doesn’t have what you all have. We are not going to be where this election is decided,” Booker said. “This is one of the reasons why Jersey is jealous of Michigan, because you are going to chart the destiny of this country in profound ways.”

After being burned in 2016, when Trump won Michigan by a margin of just 10,704 votes, the Michigan Democratic Party got to work on ensuring a repeat wouldn’t happen, U.S. Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-Lansing) said.

And it worked: Democrats won statewide races in Michigan in 2018, 2020 and 2022, including enshrining abortion rights in the state constitution after the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade.

“The problem is that even though we did all the right things, a national abortion ban put forward by Donald Trump and Republicans would wipe it all away,” Stabenow said.

Dems, Republicans turn sights to November after Michigan presidential primary
Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg and Lt. Gov. Garlin Gilchrist participate in a labor roundtable hosted by President Joe Biden’s re-election campaign with members of UA Local 333 Plumbers and Pipefitters in Lansing on Feb. 7, 2024. (Andrew Roth/Michigan Advance)

Part of that work this year will mean continuing to expand how many voters the party reaches, Lt. Gov. Garlin Gilchrist said.

“We need to grow in order to win in the right way,” Gilchrist said. “We need to make sure that we win in a way that is so constructive and decisive that it makes clear what the path is for the future of Michigan and the future of this country.”

Booker said that him being the fourth Black man elected to the U.S. Senate in history is largely possible due to the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and Voting Rights Act of 1965.

Those laws were only passed and signed thanks to the work of organizers, not thanks to just President Lyndon B. Johnson, Booker said.

“LBJ was there because there were foot soldiers on the frontlines of the movement leading and ushering in the change that we needed,” Booker said. “Tonight, you all are those foot soldiers. You all are the ones – I can brag about Biden all night long, but that is not possible without the foot soldiers doing the work, sacrifice, the struggle.”

Booker compared the issues on the line in this election to those on the line at the time Johnson was in office.

“It’s not just about the transformative legislation we can get done. It’s also about saving our democracy,” Booker said. “What wasn’t on the line in the 1960’s – freedom, equality, civil rights, voting rights, yes – but nobody was threatening to lurch our country into an authoritarian regime and roll back the gains.”

Gilchrist, who worked as an organizer for Community Change and MoveOn.org before becoming lieutenant governor, said he understands it’s a long road to November.

“Look, I spent years of my career as an organizer. You get tired, you get frustrated, you get sick of people yelling at you, you get tired of feeling you want to yell at somebody,” Gilchrist said. “But we will continue to press forward because we are motivated not by the selfish satisfaction of an individual achievement, we are motivated by the collective opportunity of what our communities can look like when we build something and work on it and work toward it together.”

Biden, who faced a challenge from a campaign asking voters to vote uncommitted in the Democratic primary as a form of protest over the administration’s handling of the Israel-Hamas war in Gaza, called for unity in a statement Tuesday night.

“You’ve heard me say many times it’s never a good bet to bet against the United States of America. It’s never a good bet to bet against Michiganders either,” Biden said. “This fight for our freedoms, for working families and for democracy is going to take all of us coming together. I know that we will.”

Dems, Republicans turn sights to November after Michigan presidential primary
Republican presidential candidate and former U.S. President Donald Trump speaks during a campaign event at Big League Dreams Las Vegas on January 27, 2024 in Las Vegas, Nevada. | David Becker/Getty Images

Trump called into a watch party hosted by the Michigan Republican Party in Grand Rapids on Tuesday night, taking a victory lap for his win over Republican presidential candidate Nikki Haley.

“I’m so proud of the results because they’re far greater than anticipated,” Trump said.

The Associated Press called the races for Biden and Trump shortly after 9 pm, but their exact margins of victory remain to be seen as votes continue to be counted.

Haley said in an interview on CNN shortly after polls closed that “Donald Trump campaigned in Michigan for eight years. I campaigned for two days. Our goal has been to reach as many people as we can, but we know he’s got the advantage in that.”

A spokesperson for Haley’s campaign compared Trump’s performance in the Republican primary to Biden’s showing in the Democratic primary.

“Joe Biden is losing about 20 percent of the Democratic vote today, and many say it’s a sign of his weakness in November,” campaign spokesperson Olivia Perez-Cubas said. “Donald Trump is losing about 35 percent of the vote. That’s a flashing warning sign for Trump in November.”