Big Trouble for Biden in Michigan

President Biden continues to struggle against Donald Trump in the critical swing states that are likely to decide the 2024 election.  But the outlook in Michigan is especially bleak. A new poll by Glengariff Associates released last month shows the former president defeating Biden there by 8 points. Most earlier polls had Trump leading Biden by a smaller margin in Michigan, about 3-4 points, well within the polling margin of error.  But along with a poll conducted by CNN two weeks ago, in which Trump bested Biden by a whopping 10 points, the latest Michigan poll suggests that Trump’s lead over Biden is real – and growing.  Left unchecked, it could spell serious political trouble for the president, with the election just 9 months away.

Michigan is located in the heart of the Rust Belt, which holds a special place, symbolically, in the nation’s politics.  For decades, it’s been the scene of massive outsourcing of manufacturing jobs, especially in the auto industry – which, to some, including Trump, is an emblem of America’s economic “decline.”

In 2016, the former president campaigned heavily on the idea that winning back manufacturing jobs would restore the nation’s prowess and dignity – and “make America great again” – a theme that struck a deep chord among workers in Michigan and elsewhere in the Rust Belt, including Wisconsin, Ohio and Pennsylvanie, three states Trump carried en route to victory that year.

In 2020, Biden, unlike Clinton, recognized Democratic vulnerability in the Wolverine State and campaigned heavily there.  The state’s Democratic governor Gretchen Whitmer, who was first elected in 2017, is popular with voters in both parties and helped Biden win back disaffected voting groups in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, an issue on which many voters felt Trump failed to exercise strong and compassionate leadership.

In the end, Biden took Michigan by 150,000 votes, which seemed to restore its status as a loyal Blue state.

But 2024 has exposed the state’s continuing vulnerability.  The former president has gone after Biden’s support for electric-powered vehicles as an alternative to gas-powered cars and trucks, which seems to threaten the jobs of autoworkers, despite reassurances from Biden and others that the “green” transition will proceed smoothly, allowing workers to “re-tool.”

Last September, Michigan workers went on strike demanding higher wages and better working conditions in the auto plants and petitioned Biden and the White House for support.  Biden decided to join the picket line, while quietly encouraging the two sides to continue talking.  In October, a settlement was reached, which in theory, should have boosted Biden’s standing.

But Trump, who made his own appearance in Michigan just days after Biden’s, continues to gain support.  Six of the last eight polls in the state since the strike ended have Trump leading – one has the two in a tie – with an overall Trump advantage of 5.3 points, according to the polling average compiled by Real Clear Politics.

Other recent polls, including one conducted by Zogby Strategies, a conservative polling firm, also have Trump gaining over Biden, but by a smaller margin.  The overall trend line strongly suggests that Biden’s hold on Michigan, such that it was, is fast slipping away.

While the topline results are bad enough, the latest poll by Glendariff Associates contains additional data that casts a long shadow over Biden’s hopes for winning Michigan.  Just 17% of Michigan voters, according to the poll,  said Biden deserves reelection, compared to 33% that said the same about Trump.  In addition, just 29% of those polled viewed Biden favorably compared to 38% for Trump.

Even worse for Biden, Trump’s lead over the current president balloons to 11 points when a handful of third-party candidates – including Republican Liz Cheney and Green party candidate Jill Stein –  are added to the polling mix.

Richard Czuba, founder of Lansing-based Glengariff Group, which conducted the poll, told Detroit News that Biden’s 17% reelection support share was the lowest percentage recorded for a major public office holder in the state’s modern political history.

“If I were a Democrat in Michigan, I would be breaking the emergency fire alarms in the White House and demanding to know what the plan is for Michigan,” Czuba said. “Because these numbers are very bad for any incumbent of any party.”

Autoworkers aren’t the only constituency Biden and the Democrats need to placate in Michigan.  Much of the recent disaffection may be due to a backlash among Arab-Americans in Detroit and Dearborn, who are outraged by Biden’s vocal support for Israel in its war with Hamas in the Gaza strip.  Many Arab-Americans are threatening to boycott the 2024 election; others say they are leaning toward supporting Trump.

A large-scale defection to Trump – who has strongly backed Israel in the past – is unlikely; the real danger, as with the state’s auto workers, may be apathy; the two groups may not show up at the polls in the numbers Biden needs to win.

Michigan is not alone.  Polls in other key swing states indicate a similar decline in enthusiasm for Biden – and rising support for Trump.  For example, the former president has opened up a strong single digit lead in Nevada and Arizona as well as in Georgia, a state that Biden flipped in 2020.  By contrast, in Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, the two men are essentially tied, according to the Real Clear Politics polling averages.

Overall, the 2024 balance in the swing states is still fairly fluid.  But in Michigan, it seems, Biden is now in deep trouble.  Trump only needs to flip 4 core swing states to win back the White House in 2024 – and he’s currently leading in all of them.

Stewart Lawrence is a long-time Washington, DC-based policy consultant.  He can be reached at