An earlier version of this article was published in the On the Trail 2024 newsletter. Sign up to receive the newsletter in your inbox on Tuesday and Friday mornings here. To submit a question to next week’s Friday Mailbag, email onthetrail@deseretnews.com.

Good morning from beautiful Washington, D.C., where Nikki Haley will try to woo big-money GOP donors at a rally this afternoon. I’m following Haley through the weekend — her last stand before Super Tuesday — as she pitches voters in D.C., Virginia, North Carolina and Massachusetts.

3 things to know

  1. Nikki Haley visited Utah Wednesday, meeting with the Deseret News editorial board and speaking at Utah Valley University. “This is a chance where Utah can show the country the direction that we want to go,” she said. Read more here.
  2. Hunter Biden sat through a 7-hour deposition Wednesday with the House Judiciary and Oversight Committees, focusing on his foreign business dealings. House Republicans are hoping to find involvement from President Joe Biden, which would bolster their impeachment hopes — though they’ve reportedly yet to find any. More here.
  3. Ronna McDaniel, chair of the RNC, will step down after Super Tuesday. Speculation has circled for weeks about McDaniel’s resignation, which makes way for Trump’s preferred leadership picks (including his daughter, Lara, as co-chair). The longest-tenured RNC chair since the Civil War, McDaniel is a graduate of Brigham Young University and niece of Sen. Mitt Romney. More here.

The Big Idea

‘Abandon Biden’ turns west

Biden’s presidential campaign hit its biggest electoral snag yet on Tuesday. In the Michigan primary, Biden won big — he garnered over 80% of the vote — and neither of his challengers, Dean Phillips and Marianne Williamson, finished above 3%. (Williamson, who dropped out of the race three weeks ago, decided to “unsuspend” her campaign this week.)

But in several Michigan cities, Biden took second place — to a ballot choice labeled “uncommitted.” In Dearborn, where he won the 2020 primary by a 3-to-1 margin, Biden finished with 40%, and “uncommitted” netted 56%. In Hamtramck, which Biden carried 5-to-1 in 2020, “uncommitted” surpassed 60%.

It’s a symptom of a larger issue: progressive voters, led by Muslims and Arab Americans, are spurning Biden over his support for Israel. Dearborn and Hamtramck boast Michigan’s highest concentrations of Muslims, and for months, a grassroots effort to “Abandon Biden” has taken shape in Michigan and beyond. The organizers are encouraging voters to protest Biden by voting against him in Democratic primaries. In South Carolina, the first Democratic primary, the effect was minimal; in Nevada, “none of these candidates” netted 6%.

In Michigan, though, alarm bells started to blare. “Abandon Biden” organizers set a goal of winning 10,000 votes for “uncommitted.” The lowball prediction served them well — within an hour of polls closing, they’d already surpassed it, finishing the night with over 100,000 votes.

The result quickly put Biden’s surrogates on the defensive. “It’s important not to lose sight of the fact that any vote that’s not cast for Biden (in November) supports a second Trump term,” said Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer during a CNN appearance Wednesday morning. She referenced Trump’s Muslim travel ban and vowed to “build bridges” with the frustrated Michigan voters. “A second Trump term would be devastating,” she said.

But this isn’t a problem that will die in Michigan. As the primary calendar progresses, the question isn’t whether Biden will be the Democratic nominee in November; it’s how much support from his party’s progressive flank he will hemorrhage by then.

A big test will come in Arizona, a 2024 swing state where Arab Americans are already organizing the anti-Biden vote.

Arizona has the largest per-capita Muslim population west of the Mississippi. They were instrumental in delivering a razor-thin Biden victory in 2020. Arizona is a swing state again in 2024, but an increasing number of Arizona Muslims are speaking out against the president. In early November, an “Abandon Biden” news conference was held at the state capitol, where Muslim leaders accused Biden of genocide and announced they would not support him. Last week, on “Muslim Day,” they reiterated their stance during a press event outside the Phoenix City Hall.

Their efforts go beyond Biden alone. “Our main goal is not to make sure that a certain president is out of office,” said Ahmed Ewaisha, co-chair of Abandon Biden Arizona. “Our main goal is to send a message to the entire American people that there are consequences for not calling for a ceasefire.”

An estimated 110,000 Muslims live in Arizona, making up 1.5% percent of the population — the highest proportion in the western U.S. (In Michigan, by comparison, Muslims account for 2.4%). But the anti-Biden vote may go well beyond Muslims and Arab Americans alone. In Michigan, the progressive hubs near large state universities saw high vote totals for “uncommitted”: in Ann Arbor, home of the University of Michigan, 19 percent; in East Lansing, home of Michigan State, 15 percent.

At Arizona State University in Tempe, there are over 8,000 Muslim students, faculty and staff. An academic center is dedicated to studying the “Muslim experience” in the U.S.; a Muslim Students Association is active on campus.

Ewaisha, an associate professor of engineering at ASU, explained that his main focus is the general election. “But we will also try to send a message in the primary,” he said.

The Arizona Democratic primary is on March 19, two weeks after Super Tuesday. Biden still has over eight months until the general election, and it is futile to predict the status of the Israel-Hamas war in the coming months. But Biden is seeing his first real test this primary election — and it’s not coming from another candidate.

Weekend reads

Why is Haley still in the race? There are dueling opinions here. One is that she plans to win at least five Super Tuesday states, which would allow her to challenge Trump’s nomination on the floor of the RNC this summer. More on that here: There’s a Good Reason Haley’s Still Running – And It’s Not Trump’s Legal Problems (Henry Olsen, Politico magazine) Another possibility — and one Haley has denied frequently, including during her meeting with our editorial board Wednesday — is that she wants to run as an independent after Trump secures the nomination. The problem? Some states ban “sore losers” from running again — meaning, should someone lose a primary election, state law keeps them from launching an independent bid for the general. More on the state-level legal complexities at play: How Much ‘Sore Loser Laws’ Would Impede Nikki Haley on a No Labels Ticket (Jim Geraghty, National Review)

A tragic murder in Georgia, committed by an undocumented immigrant, has unleashed a wave of anti-immigrant vitriol — and plenty of misinformation. Trump, for example, is warning of a migrant crime wave sweeping the country. But an NBC analysis shows that overall crime levels are dropping in cities with the highest rates of immigration. Trump’s claims of a migrant crime wave are not supported by national data (Olympia Sonnier and Garrett Haake, NBC News)

See you on the trail.

Editor’s Note: The Deseret News is committed to covering issues of substance in the 2024 presidential race from its unique perspective and editorial values. Our team of political reporters will bring you in-depth coverage of the most relevant news and information to help you make an informed decision. Find our complete coverage of the election here.