The presidential campaign is shifting to Michigan, where Republicans and Democrats are holding their primaries Tuesday.

Former President Donald Trump is aiming to keep his winning streak alive in the 2024 GOP nomination fight with Nikki Haley, with 16 GOP delegates up for grabs in Tuesday’s primary. The other 39 delegates will be doled out at a state party convention Saturday.

Meanwhile, President Joe Biden faces opposition from critics of his handling of the Israel-Hamas war who are encouraging Michigan Democratic voters to cast their ballots for “uncommitted” as a form of protest. 

If you’re planning to follow along Tuesday night as the results map lights up one county at a time, here are some key areas to keep an eye on.

The first three areas marked off here are especially significant for the Republican primary.

1. Dutch country

Western Michigan is home to the largest concentration of Dutch Americans in the country, and these five counties (Muskegon, Ottawa, Kent, Allegan and Kalamazoo) make up the heart of it. 

For complex reasons dating back to a split in the Dutch Reformed Church and a large 19th-century migration from Holland, the heavy Dutch influence on this area has created a distinct political culture — one that is conservative and traditionally Republican, but also unusually averse to Trump. In the 2016 Michigan primary, Trump carried the state with 37% of the vote. But in these five counties combined, he managed a mere 23%, finishing second in two of them (Allegan and Muskegon) and third in three (Kalamazoo, Kent and Ottawa). This is especially striking given that, overall, Trump carried 72 of the state’s 83 counties.

For Haley, that makes running up the score in these counties — which together will account for about 1 out of every 6 votes cast statewide — absolutely pivotal. Pay particular attention to the two largest counties here: Kent (where Grand Rapids is) and Ottawa (which includes much of the city of Holland and its densely populated environs).

2. Trump country

Geographically, this is a massive region, taking in just about everything north of Grand Rapids and Saginaw. But these are largely rural counties with low populations that together will account for only about 15% of the statewide vote. 

Still, they are, with only a few exceptions, smack in the middle of Trump’s demographic wheelhouse, with high concentrations of white voters without college degrees, a group from which he’s enjoyed deep support. Trump turned many of these counties red in 2016, often posting 20- to 30-point improvements over Mitt Romney’s 2012 performance, helping him become the only Republican since 1988 to win Michigan in the general election.

Look Tuesday night to see just how much Trump is winning these counties by and how their turnout levels compare to the rest of the state. The more of a pad he can build here, the more he’ll be insulated from his vulnerabilities elsewhere.

3. A tale of two suburban counties

Macomb and Oakland are the two largest counties in suburban Detroit, each separated from the big city by the famous 8 Mile Road. Together, they will account for around one-quarter of the statewide primary electorate, but they reflect two very different voting bases — one Trump-friendly and the other Trump-hostile.

Macomb is where Trump should drive up big numbers. This is a working- and middle-class county, with a higher share of white voters without college degrees (58%) than the statewide average. It was critical to Trump flipping the state in 2016 (after voting twice for Barack Obama, Macomb went for Trump by 12 points) and he won it again in 2020. In the 2016 GOP primary, Trump racked up 48% of the vote here — almost 10 points better than his statewide tally. Of the state’s 83 counties, Macomb was Trump’s 10th strongest in 2016.

Oakland, meanwhile, is the more upscale of the two counties, boasting the fourth-highest median household income in the state. Its concentration of white voters with college degrees (36%) is among the highest in the state and, unlike Macomb, it sided strongly against Trump in the 2016 and 2020 general elections. In the 2016 primary, Oakland gave the Republican race’s most moderate candidate, John Kasich, his second-best showing in the state. This is demographically fertile soil for Haley.

Watch to see if Haley is, indeed, winning Oakland County on Tuesday night — and if she is, whether her margin offsets Trump’s in Macomb.

This leaves us with one remaining highlighted area on the map — the one to watch most closely in the Democratic race.

4. The Muslim and Arab American vote

The opponent from which Biden faces the biggest threat Tuesday is not another candidate. It’s the “uncommitted” ballot option, which critics of his approach to the Israel-Hamas war are urging Democratic voters to use as a protest. If “uncommitted” is getting any traction Tuesday night, it will be most pronounced in these two counties.

Wayne is the home of Dearborn, a city of 110,000 that is now majority Arab American. Dearborn also has the largest Muslim population per capita of any city in America. Dearborn is represented in Congress by Rashida Tlaib, who has been among the most prominent Democrats advocating votes for “uncommitted.”

To the west of Wayne County is Washtenaw County, where there are two major colleges: the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor and Eastern Michigan University in Ypsilanti. Campus protests against Israel’s actions have been seen nationwide, and polling has shown that disapproval of Biden’s handling of the war runs deepest among college-age voters. If “uncommitted” isn’t performing strongly here, then it will be a big sign that the effort has fizzled.

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