Welcome to the online version of From the Politics Desk, an evening newsletter that brings you the NBC News Politics team’s latest reporting and analysis from the on the campaign trail, the White House and Capitol Hill.

In today’s edition, senior national political reporter Henry J. Gomez previews tonight’s Democratic and Republican presidential primaries in Michigan. Plus, senior political editor Mark Murray explains why the 2024 primary results may not tell us all that much about a general election matchup between Joe Biden and Donald Trump.

3 things to watch in the Michigan primary

By Henry J. Gomez

President Joe Biden got the early Michigan primary he wanted — or did he?

The results of today’s nominating contest there could show the first tangible signs of Democratic discontent with Biden at the ballot box in a state he pushed toward the front of the 2024 primary calendar. 

On the Republican side, former President Donald Trump will look to continue his unbeaten primary streak as he marches on toward the nomination.

Do you have a news tip? Let us know

Here are three dynamics to watch tonight in Michigan, where polls close at 9 p.m. ET:

1. Does “uncommitted” embarrass Biden? Biden should easily win the Democratic primary, but eyes will be closely fixed on the margins — particularly on what share of the vote goes to “uncommitted.” Activists angry over Biden’s handling of the Israel-Hamas war are leading a protest vote campaign aimed at sending a pointed message. It could be a particularly potent one in Michigan, which has large Arab American and Muslim populations. 

 Organizers with Listen to Michigan, the group behind the uncommitted effort, say they hope to win 10,000 votes, which matches Trump’s margin of victory in the state in 2016. They might be setting a low bar in hopes of clearing it with ease: The uncommitted option pulled nearly double that amount in past Democratic presidential primaries that lacked such a robust protest push.

2. Did Gretchen Whitmer’s help make a difference for Biden? Michigan’s governor is one of Biden’s top surrogates — she received VP buzz in 2020 and is seen as a future White House contender herself. 

This is Michigan’s first statewide election to offer an early, in-person voting option, but The Detroit News reported that interest was slow to build. And Biden kept a relatively low profile ahead of today’s primary, relying in part on Whitmer’s political action committee to lead get-out-the-vote efforts. 

Whitmer’s group, Fight Like Hell, held about two dozen campaign events this month, so if her turnout operation helps spare Biden a smaller-than-ideal victory, it could reinforce her status as one of the national Democratic Party’s top prospects. 

3. Does Nikki Haley hit 40%? The former U.N. ambassador’s core argument for keeping her campaign alive is that her ability to win at least 40% of the vote in New Hampshire and South Carolina (her home state) spells general election doom for Trump. There have been few reliable GOP primary polls in Michigan, but Trump maintains meaningful alliances in the state and is once again expected to cruise to victory. 

Kent and Oakland counties — Grand Rapids and the upscale suburbs of Detroit — are fertile ground for Haley, as NBC News’ Steve Kornacki reports. But regardless of her performance, tonight’s primary results will not be the final word on which Republican wins Michigan.

Most of the GOP’s 55 delegates will be allocated based on the results of a state party convention Saturday. And at the moment, the state party is engulfed in chaos that includes dueling claims to the top leadership post and, potentially, dueling conventions.

Follow along tonight with NBC News’ results page and live blog.

What the early primaries have — and haven’t — taught us

Analysis by Mark Murray

A word of advice: Don’t read too much into the early presidential primary results, including tonight’s contests in Michigan — at least as it relates to how a matchup between Biden and Trump might break in November. 

Sure, the results from Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina have taught us that Trump is well on his way toward clinching the GOP nomination by as early as mid-March. They also have taught us that he is dominating among rank-and-file Republican voters, while Haley is winning among moderates, independents and crossover Democrats. 

And the early Democratic contests tell us that Biden has a lock on his party’s nomination.

But these primaries aren’t the best indicators of what to expect in a likely Biden-Trump rematch, despite the tea leaves that so many are trying to read from them.  

At best, these results are additional data points of storylines we already know. 

Take the not-so-insignificant share of GOP primary voters in South Carolina backing Haley who say that they’d be dissatisfied with Trump as the nominee and that he would be unfit to be president if he’s convicted of a crime.

Are they Republican voters who will come back to support Trump in a general election? Or were they never going to support Trump in the first place. 

In fact, there are numbers from the NBC News exit poll of South Carolina suggesting that a good chunk of the anti-Trump Haley voters are Democrats or Democratic-leaning independents:

  • Five percent of all South Carolina GOP primary voters identified as Democrats, according to the exit poll — up from 2% in 2016, when there was a competitive Democratic primary between Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders. (And while 5% isn’t exactly a large figure, it was probably the difference between Haley getting nearly 40% of the primary vote versus 35%, where some public polls had her.)
  • Seventeen percent of Saturday’s voters described the nation’s economy as either excellent or good, when national surveys show that Republican voters are universally sour on the economy. These voters favored Haley over Trump, 88% to 11%. 
  • And 28% of voters said no one in their household owns a gun. Those voters broke for Haley 59% to 40%. 

(Remember, in presidential primaries like South Carolina and Michigan, any registered voter can choose to participate in either the Democratic or Republican contest.)

Likewise, do we know for certain that the possibly thousands of Michigan Democratic primary voters who vote “uncommitted” today won’t support Biden in the fall against Trump? Or is it more of a way to protest the president’s handling of the Israel-Hamas war — without necessarily tipping their hand on how they will vote in the general election?

We already know that Biden’s handling of the Israel-Hamas war is unpopular with members of his own party. We know Trump narrowly leads Biden in battleground Michigan, albeit largely within the margin of error. And we know both Trump and Biden are unpopular with majorities of all voters

A Biden-Trump election will ultimately come down to these four questions: Will voters back Biden? Will they support Trump? Will they vote third-party? Or will they not vote at all? 

The early primaries won’t answer those questions — even if they’ll tell us so many other important stories.

🗞️ Today’s top stories

  • 👀 Shutdown watch: With a partial government shutdown looming, Biden sat down with the top four congressional leaders at the White House on Tuesday. Read more →
  • 🇺🇲 Election Week? After the 2020 election took days to call, some states changed their rules so mail ballots could be counted quicker. But in the event of a close race, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin could keep us all waiting once again come November. Read more →
  • 🚗 Defying gravity: NBC News has an exclusive report on records showing the vehicle carrying Vice President Kamala Harris was “momentarily airborne” in a motorcade accident in 2022. The vehicle’s driver was not required to take a defensive driving training course. Read more →
  • 🇷🇺 Navalny fallout: Five sources told NBC News that a deal to free Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny was in the works prior to his death. Read more →
  • 🚫 End game: The Atlantic explores No Labels’ quasi-presidential campaign amid mounting questions about its ultimate goal. Read more →
  • 🗨️ March Forth: In the D.C. area on March 4 ? Our friends at MSNBC Live are hosting a power lunch that day to preview Super Tuesday and the State of the Union address — hosted by Luke Russert and featuring Steve Kornacki, Jen Psaki, Stephanie Ruhle and special guests Quentin Fulks, former Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan and Sophia Bush. The event is invite only and space is limited, so click on the link to request a spot. Please note: Request does not guarantee an invitation. Request an invitation →

That’s all from The Politics Desk for now. If you have feedback — likes or dislikes — email us at [email protected].

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Source: | This article originally belongs to Nbcnews.com

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