Super Tuesday Highlights Biden’s Gaza Problem

President Joe Biden is on track to be the Democratic nominee in November — but the results in Tuesday’s primaries indicate he has a growing political problem on his left. The protest movement that started in Michigan, to oppose Biden’s support for Israel’s brutal war in Gaza, is spreading. 

Following Michigan’s lead last week, activists quickly organized in the 15 states holding primaries on Super Tuesday, based on those states’ ballot language. As of 12:30 a.m. Wednesday, CNN election data showed more than 19 percent of voters in Minnesota had voted “uncommitted” — a far greater percentage than the 13 percent in Michigan last week. 

In North Carolina, 12.5 percent voted “no preference,” and 9 percent did the same in Massachusetts. Ten percent voted “uncommitted” in Tennessee. Virginians were encouraged to support Biden primary opponent Marianne Williamson — 8 percent did so. In Colorado, 7 percent voted “noncommitted.” In some states, voters were encouraged to write-in “cease-fire” on their ballots; these figures are tougher to track. 

“The President believes making your voice heard and participating in our democracy is fundamental to who we are as Americans,” says a Biden campaign spokesperson. “He shares the goal for an end to the violence and a just, lasting peace in the Middle East. He’s working tirelessly to that end.”

Since Hamas’ Oct. 7 attack against Israel, in which 1,139 were killed and more than 200 were kidnapped, Israel has laid waste to Gaza with the Biden administration’s support. More than 30,000 Palestinians have been killed, two million have been internally displaced, and hundreds of thousands are at imminent risk of famine, according to the United Nations.

Biden has stepped up his criticism of Israel’s conduct in recent weeks, and has started calling for a temporary, six-week cease-fire. As the war has dragged on, opposition to Biden has grown and become more confrontational. The president’s events are protested so frequently that his campaign has reportedly decided to host fewer, smaller events, and avoid college campuses. 

Now, the protests are showing up in ballot boxes around the country. 

The number of anti-Biden protest votes could be meaningful in his expected general election contest against former President Donald Trump — who, for his part, declared Tuesday that Israel has to “finish the problem” in Gaza. 

More than 100,000 people voted uncommitted last week in Michigan, where Biden won by 155,000 votes in 2020. While Biden won Minnesota by 7 percent in 2020, the state’s 2016 election was very close: Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton carried the state by fewer than 44,000 votes against Trump. With 68 percent of the vote in, according to CNN, nearly 46,000 Minnesotans had voted uncommitted. (Michigan and Minnesota both have significant Muslim populations.) 

The risk posed by dropout votes could be even greater for Democrats this year. Biden’s approval ratings are poor, and former President Donald Trump has a narrow lead in the general election, according to polling averages

“We didn’t have a lot of time, but we felt it was important to get some organizing up and running here in Minnesota, because so many Minnesotans have been in the streets, been in the halls of policymaking, and contacting our senators and the president with a very clear demand to deliver a permanent cease-fire now,” says Elianne Farhat, who serves as the executive director at TakeAction Minnesota and helped organize the Vote Uncommitted MN campaign. “We know that our voice at the ballot box is another tool to break through and to save lives in Gaza.” 

Minnesota Sen. Jen McEwen, a member of the state’s Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party who supported the uncommitted campaign, says a central aim of the campaign was to demonstrate the risk that Israel’s war poses to Biden’s reelection campaign. 

“If he doesn’t change course on it, I think that it’s really dangerous for November,” she says. “So making a demonstration to show him the kind of numbers of people who he’d be at danger of losing, I think it’s really important.”

Asma Mohammed Nizami, an organizer with Vote Uncommitted MN, says the group held its first phone bank last Friday. She says the group ran digital ads on Facebook and Instagram, and newspaper ads, too. 


“This is some of the best organizing I’ve seen of Democrats,” she says, adding that the group is “not organizing around fear, we’re organizing around a hope that the president can be better, that we don’t want his legacy to be genocide, we want him to leave as a better president.”

This story has been updated to include comment from the Biden campaign and new numbers based on additional election data.