Biden planning post-UAW endorsement trip to Michigan

His trip comes as Biden lags in polls and amid anger over his handling of Israel policy.

Jan 31, 2024 - 11:05
Biden planning post-UAW endorsement trip to Michigan

President Joe Biden will travel to Michigan on Thursday as he tries to rally support among voters in a battleground state viewed as central to his reelection chances, three people familiar with the matter told POLITICO.

The trip would be his first to Michigan this year. It would aim to capitalize on Biden’s momentum among the state’s blue-collar workers, after winning a full-throated endorsement from the United Auto Workers just six days ago.

The White House confirmed the trip on Tuesday afternoon, saying Biden will participate in a political event.

Biden's event will center on his UAW endorsement, said three people familiar with the matter, who were granted anonymity to discuss internal planning. He is expected to visit the greater Detroit area, said one of the people.

The trip would also give the president a platform to tout his support for labor in a state that boasts a heavy concentration of union members, while drawing a contrast with GOP frontrunner Donald Trump's recent criticism of the UAW.

Trump earlier this week derided UAW president Shawn Fain as a "dope" for endorsing Biden and called for his removal as head of the union.

Biden joined the picket line with UAW members during their six-week strike against Detroit automakers last year. His campaign is now counting on the union’s organizational influence to bolster his chances in November, amid polling that's shown Biden trailing Trump in Michigan by several points.

Yet the trip would assuredly carry a measure of peril for the president, amid simmering outrage within the state over Biden's support for Israel's war in Gaza. Biden’s approach has prompted rebukes from the state’s Arab-American community and opened fissures within the broader Democratic Party, spurring warnings from local officials that he’s at risk of losing Michigan without a sharp change in policy.

Several Arab-American and Muslim leaders shunned Biden campaign manager Julie Chávez Rodríguez when she visited the state last week, refusing invitations to meet with her.

Dearborn Mayor Abdullah Hammoud predicted in a recent interview that a Biden visit to southeast Michigan would draw protests over the war.

“There's not going to be such a warm welcome given the current circumstances unfolding overseas, and the lack of empathy coming out of the White House, and actually the enabling of a genocide,” he said.

Chávez Rodríguez still met last Friday with other elected officials and representatives from various minority communities, including Rep. Rashida Tlaib, who has openly criticized Biden's approach toward Israel and refusal to entertain a full ceasefire in Gaza.

But the visit offered a preview of what Biden could face once on the ground in Michigan.

"The elephant in the room is Gaza," said Alysa Diebolt, chair of Democratic Party in Macomb County, which encompasses blue-collar suburbs outside of Detroit. "There are a lot of people in southeast Michigan that are really unhappy right now."

Others in the state have downplayed the frustration over the White House's support for Israel, warning that the greater concern is Biden's broader polling weakness.

Michigan Rep. Dan Kildee told POLITICO earlier this month that he believes Democrats can still convince many voters to set aside their unhappiness over the U.S.'s role in Gaza and support Biden, based on the argument that Trump poses a unique danger to democracy.

But he warned that the Biden campaign needs to pour more resources into its efforts to boost voters' awareness of the administration's economic accomplishments and their benefits for Michigan — a concern he's relayed privately to the Biden camp as well.

"We have to actually connect the dots for them, and we have to do it with repetition, and it's a challenge," he said. "We've been pushing for more, literally, boots on the ground in Michigan."