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In battle for the Muslim vote, Sanders destroys the competition: poll

Amid massive voter turnout of Muslim-Americans, Bernie Sanders takes the Muslim vote in landslide, recent CAIR survey shows
Muslim women who support Bernie Sanders listen as he addresses a 2016 campaign rally in California (AFP/File photo)
By in
Washington

US presidential candidates made unprecedented efforts to court the Muslim vote in the lead-up to Super Tuesday, but according to a recent poll, Bernie Sanders won that battle in a landslide. 

Sanders took 58 percent of the overall Muslim vote on Super Tuesday, according to a poll released by the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) released on Friday.

'American Muslim voters are a growing demographic that in certain states - like Michigan - can give candidates the edge they need,'

Petra Alsoofy, ISPU

Meanwhile, Elizabeth Warren, who dropped out on Thursday, came in at just five percent despite a concerted last-minute push in her Muslim outreach efforts.

Joe Biden, who compared to his progressive counterparts has done little in terms of targeted Muslim outreach, came in with 27 percent, according to CAIR.

In terms of actual election results from Super Tuesday, Biden is now the frontrunner with 627 total delegates. Sanders is second with 551, and Warren, before dropping out, had a lacklustre 64.

In order to win the nomination, a candidate needs 1,991 of the 3,979 total delegates.

Muslims in Michigan

The next set of primaries will take place on Tuesday in the states of Michigan, Washington, Missouri, Mississippi, Idaho and North Dakota.

With 125 delegates, Michigan alone accounts for more than a third of the delegates up for grabs, making it a make-or-break state in the hotly contested primary. 

Sanders has held numerous rallies, town halls and other outreach events targeted at the Muslim population of Detroit, a city that boasts the largest Muslim population in the country. 

While Muslims only make up one percent of the US population, they constitute around 2.75 percent in Michigan.

"Muslims are never going to be a swing vote for a general election, but they could meaningfully impact certain states, especially in the primaries, Michigan being the best case in point," Youssef Chouhoud, a political science professor at Virginia's Christopher Newport University, told MEE.

One million Muslims

Total voter turnout among Muslims on Super Tuesday was 73.9 percent, according to CAIR. 

With the voting power of Muslims increasing over the years, it makes sense that two of the top campaigns in this year's race chose to invest in extraordinary Muslim-American outreach efforts. 

"These survey results show exactly why several 2020 presidential candidates have made unprecedented attempts to court American Muslim voters," CAIR government affairs director Robert McCaw said in a news release accompanying the survey's findings. 

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"The interconnectedness of the American Muslim community and its more than 1 million registered voters makes Muslims a strong and increasingly critical voice in American politics."

According to the ISPU, a think-tank focused on American Muslims, their voter registration was up from 60 percent in 2016 to 73 percent in 2019. 

Petra Alsoofy, Outreach and Partnerships Manager at ISPU, told MEE it would be a mistake for candidates to not take the needs of American Muslims into account during the campaign season.

"American Muslims are not sitting on the sidelines anymore," Alsoofy said.

"American Muslim voters are a growing demographic that in certain states - like Michigan - and can give candidates the edge they need," Alsoofy continued. 

"Candidates that don't recognise that will lose the American Muslim vote."

Courting the Muslim vote 

In the days leading up to Super Tuesday primary vote, progressive presidential candidates Sanders and Warren both put Muslim Americans at front and center in their outreach efforts. 

The hashtag #MuslimsForBernie was trending on Twitter on Monday, just days after Warren's campaign released an extensive policy plan aimed at Muslim Americans

While Warren did not start pushing hard for the Muslim vote until last month, the Sanders campaign had been building support from the Muslim-American community since his last presidential campaign. 

As the first frontrunner in a presidential election to openly criticise Israel, coupled with his on-the-ground outreach, Bernie enjoyed significant support from the Muslim-American community from the start of the 2020 campaign. 

Sanders has endorsements from the first two Muslim women elected to Congress, Rashida Tlaib and Ilhan Omar. He has also received endorsements from prominent Muslim political groups  Emgage PAC and the Muslim Caucus of America.

Prominent faith leaders, including Omar Suleiman, founder of the Yaqeen Institute in Texas, and Johari Abdul-Malik, a Washington-based imam, have also signed on to the Sanders campaign.

Biden, meanwhile, has taken some recent heat for his chosen director of Muslim outreach, Amit Jani, an avid supporter of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Hindu-nationalist BJP party.  

Jani took to Facebook in May to celebrate the reelection of Modi, whose party has encouraged massive anti-Muslim protests in India and backed a discriminatory Citizenship Amendment Bill that threatens the existence of the country's 200 million-strong Muslim population. 

A search on Twitter for "Biden Muslim outreach" brings up nothing but pages of criticism for his pick of Jani as his outreach coordinator. 

Bloomberg backs Biden

Biden also landed an endorsement on Wednesday from Mike Bloomberg, who last week said spying on Muslims and mosques while mayor of New York was the "right thing to do". 

Sanders has been an ardent critic of both Modi's anti-Muslim protests and Bloomberg's racist surveillance programme.

For her part, before dropping out of the race this week, Warren released a detailed policy plan that dove deeply into Muslim issues. 

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Iram Ali, a senior content strategist and point person for Muslim engagement on the Warren campaign, told MEE earlier this week that Warren made sure to tap experts from different Muslim communities to provide feedback and ensure their concerns and ideas were heard within the policy package. 

The Warren campaign last month had also launched its Muslims With Warren Twitter page and hosted a virtual roundtable with Muslim communities to discuss her wealth tax.

Warren chose to come back to Detroit to ring in Super Tuesday, and on Friday, Sanders scrapped his plans to rally in Mississipi, instead choosing the city for one of his last campaign efforts before the pivotal vote on Tuesday. 

On Saturday Sanders plans to hold a rally in Dearborn, a town within the Detroit metropolitan area that has a 30 percent Muslim population. 

Biden plans to visit Detroit on Monday, a day before the six-state vote. 

Muslim woman support Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders at a campaign rally in California
Muslim woman support Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders at a campaign rally in California (AFP/File photo)