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Biden won Michigan with surge in Detroit, Oakland County, Grand Rapids

David Eggert
Associated Press

Lansing – Joe Biden reclaimed Michigan for Democrats with a surge of support in urban regions like Detroit and Grand Rapids, offsetting high turnout in rural and exurban areas for President Donald Trump.

Biden’s 146,000-vote margin, 2.7 percentage points, was powered by gains in big, vote-rich counties such as Oakland near Detroit and Kent, which includes Grand Rapids – amid a record 5.5 million people casting ballots statewide.

Biden won Oakland by 14 points, besting Hillary Clinton’s 8-point edge in 2016. He carried Kent by almost 6 points after Trump netted it by 3 points four years ago. Trump again won traditional bellwether Macomb County outside Detroit, by roughly 8 points – less than his 11-point margin in 2016, however.

Joe Biden addresses supporters at Renaissance High School.

Biden became just the second Democratic presidential candidate to carry Kent in more than 50 years, after Barack Obama did it in his first run.

How stark was the shift in Kent, a former Republican stronghold that is changing demographically? About 51,000 more people voted for president than in 2016. Biden secured 48,000 more votes than Clinton, while Trump got 17,000 more than last time – as fewer people voted for a third-party candidate or left blank the top of the ticket, too.

Biden claimed 11 of the state’s 83 counties, including three he flipped: Kent, Saginaw and Leelanau near Traverse City.

In Wayne, the state’s largest county and home to Detroit, Biden’s net gain over Trump outpaced Clinton’s by 32,000 votes. Still, the percentage-point margin was identical to 2016 – evidence that despite Republicans’ questioning of vote counting there, nothing seems amiss statistically. Blue counties such as Washtenaw and Ingham turned bluer.

Biden won with the backing of voters of color, younger voters and white voters with college degrees, said Patrick Schuh, Michigan director for the liberal group America Votes, which works to mobilize Democratic turnout. Biden, he said, also cut into Trump’s margins with non-college-educated female white voters.

Among Black voters, 93% supported Biden; 53% of White voters backed Trump, according to results from AP Votecast, a survey of 3,571 voters in Michigan conducted for The Associated Press by NORC at the University of Chicago. Biden had a 17-point edge among women, Trump a 12-point margin with men. Biden won three of four age groups: 18-29, 30-44 and 65 and older. Trump took the 45-64 age bracket.

Biden won 68% of urban voters to 31% for Trump and 54% of suburban voters to 44% for Trump. The president was supported by 58% of rural voters to 40% for Biden.

Trump proved he was able to find new supporters in the suburbs and in rural, red pockets of Michigan – in counties like Hillsdale on the Indiana border, Sanilac in the Thumb and many in the state’s northern region. But Democrats also turned out their vote.

About two-thirds of the counties that backed Trump became more Democratic – most just slightly, some more significantly.

“We are a much more politically volatile state,” Schuh said, noting results at the top of the ticket over the last decade.

Voters elected Rick Snyder governor in 2010 and 2014, reelected Obama in 2012, backed Trump in 2016, elected Democrat Gretchen Whitmer in 2018 and, this time, supported Biden. In the VoteCast survey, self-described independent voters supported Biden 50% to 42% for Trump. Among those saying they were moderate – about a third of respondents – Biden had a 26-point edge.

“They’re all swing election environments here in Michigan,” Schuh said. “Michigan is a crucial part of the blue wall and the path to the presidency clearly, but the other aspect of this is we have more swing voters here than I think folks recognize.”

Still, he said, many voters are locked into their camps and persuadable voters account for a sliver of the electorate.

“It’s a mobilization game and you can play on the margins – both sides can.”