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In Minnesota, 'uncommitted' got 19% of the Democratic presidential primary votes

ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

President Biden won the Democratic presidential primary in Minnesota last night, as expected. More surprising was the second-place finisher with nearly 19% of the vote, uncommitted. Going into Super Tuesday, grassroots organizers hoped to ride the momentum of what happened last week in Michigan, when Democratic primary voters used their vote as a protest over Biden's stance on Israel's war in Gaza. Minnesota Public Radio's Clay Masters is covering this story from St. Paul. Hi, Clay.

CLAY MASTERS, BYLINE: Hey there.

SHAPIRO: A 19% uncommitted vote in Minnesota's Democratic primary is a big increase from the 13% figure we saw last week in Michigan. What do those numbers from the Associated Press tell us?

MASTERS: Well, it tells us there are delegates that are not bound to President Joe Biden, and advocates behind the vote are still trying to assess kind of just what that means for their cause. The primary results will determine 75 of Minnesota's delegates to represent the state at the Democratic National Convention, which is in August in Chicago. The bulk will be required to vote for Biden on the first nominating ballot, but some will go to the convention as uncommitted, you know, basically free agents.

I was at a small watch party in Minneapolis last night with supporters of the grassroots group Uncommitted MN. They were huddled around a large screen where they were updating the results as they were coming in. And early in the night, I talked with the lead organizer of the effort, Asma Mohammed, who says recent comments made by the Biden administration regarding a cease-fire shows they're listening.

ASMA MOHAMMED: They had said three days before, four days at best. Six weeks is huge. It's not enough, but it's such a significant shift from what we've seen in this administration. And I think that's due to what Michigan organizers were doing and what we're doing here tonight.

MASTERS: And, Ari, the group claimed a victory last night. They had a goal of 5,000 votes, which they far surpassed. And I should note, uncommitted got more votes than Congressman Dean Phillips in his home state, who suspended his campaign today.

SHAPIRO: Well, what are supporters of President Biden saying in response to this today?

MASTERS: Yeah, first off, the Biden campaign has acknowledged the issue and says he's working to earn trust of these uncommitted voters while he and the administration push for a longer cease-fire on the ground and more aid for Gaza. Yet supporters of the uncommitted movement say they want a permanent cease-fire. They also want the president to change his course on how he's approaching the war in Gaza. It's a conflict that has killed many women and children. Minnesota's Democratic Governor Tim Walz is a big Biden supporter and chair of the Democratic Governors Association, and he was on CNN and addressed it last night.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

TIM WALZ: The situation in Gaza is intolerable. And I think trying to find a solution, a lasting two-state solution, certainly the president's move towards humanitarian aid and asking us to get to a cease-fire, that's what they're asking to be heard. And that's what they should be doing.

MASTERS: And again, 1 in 5 Democratic voters who voted in Minnesota selected uncommitted in their primary last night. That's a greater percentage of the vote than Michigan gave last week, and that's what motivated the movement in this state. And activists are quick to say they had a lot less time to organize and try to turn out this protest vote.

SHAPIRO: Just briefly, do Republicans see an opening to make inroads here in this historically Democratic state?

MASTERS: Well, Minnesota has gone to the Democratic presidential candidate in general elections for decades. You'd have to go back to 1972 to find the last time it tipped in the Republican column. The Trump campaign believes it can make a run at the state, given that recent polls show Biden is underperforming with important voting groups. But many of these voters who chose to send a message in the primary for the Democrats are not sure how they will decide to vote in November, especially since after last night, the Republican presumptive nominee is, of course, likely going to be Donald Trump.

SHAPIRO: That's Minnesota Public Radio's Clay Masters. Thanks.

MASTERS: My pleasure. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Clay Masters
[Copyright 2024 MPR News]