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After four decades of working in the labor movement, Jeff Farmer enthusiastically cast his vote in the 2020 presidential election for Joe Biden, describing the Democrat as one of the most pro-union presidents in his lifetime.

But in Minnesota's presidential primary election this month, the 70-year-old retiree from Golden Valley was one of seven members of his family who cast their ballots as "uncommitted" to send a message to Biden and other state Democrats that they want a permanent cease-fire in Gaza and a cutoff of military aid.

"He's done a lot, but what's happening in Gaza against the Palestinians, it goes beyond policy differences," said Farmer, citing more than 30,000 casualties and two million people internally displaced by war. "We feel very strongly about the horror that's taking place on our watch, with our tax dollars and in our time. Our family, like a lot of folks, feel like we want to do something."

People like Farmer and his family were motivated by a last-minute campaign from organizers in the state's Muslim and Arab community, which led to a nearly 19% vote for "uncommitted" in the presidential primary, the largest percentage a protest campaign against the president has amassed in any state so far. The total number of voters — nearly 46,000 — has its own significance for some Democrats: Donald Trump was nearly 45,000 votes shy of beating Hillary Clinton in Minnesota in 2016.

Organizers say the broad coalition turned out by the uncommitted effort after only a week of campaigning in Minnesota should serve as a warning sign to Democrats and the Biden administration about the fall election.

"A lot of people I talked to on the doors just weren't going to show up on Super Tuesday and said they didn't want to show up in November either," said Asma Mohammed, an organizer with the uncommitted campaign, who noted that more Republicans voted in their presidential primary than Democrats did in theirs. "That should scare Democrats. I'm a lifelong Democrat and that scares me."

While Biden beat Donald Trump in Minnesota by more than 7% of the vote four years ago, there are early signs that the state could be more competitive this fall. Recent polls have put Trump within striking distance of Biden in the state, and the former president is promising to put resources into trying to flip Minnesota red in November.

DFL Party Chairman Ken Martin said this year's presidential race is an "existential" choice for voters. Seven months from now, when the choice comes down to Biden and Trump, he believes these Democrats will come back into the fold.

"There's a lot of pain right now in this country over what's happening in the Mideast and folks really want to make sure we center the humanity of the loss of innocent life," Martin said, adding that it's early to read "too much into what the uncommitted vote means for the fall election."

Other Democrats are asking leaders to pay attention to the anxiety over the war in Gaza. Images of destruction and casualties are bombarding people's news and social media feeds daily, creating a strong emotional reaction that is playing out politically, said Jeff Hayden, a former DFL state senator from Minneapolis.

"People, especially new Americans, they have come out of that history. They're refugees for a reason, they've been in a war or their families have been in a war. That trauma is really close to them," he said. "Then there's a lot of people in the communities that I used to represent that are very much antiwar. The combination of that is something that we should watch out for."

Minnesota is home to roughly 91,000 Somali Americans, the largest population in the country.

Hayden worries that Democrats frustrated with Biden over Gaza will start to look at other concerns in their lives and develop a sense of "apathy or malaise about both candidates."

Clinton's narrow victory over Trump in Minnesota in 2016 was due, in part, to a dramatic drop in turnout among Democrats from the 2012 presidential race. More than 8.6% of voters in that election also cast ballots for a third party or write-in candidate. Minnesota has a history of backing third-party candidates, including former Independence Party Gov. Jesse Ventura.

In 2020, Biden outperformed Clinton in the state by consolidating the Democratic base behind him. The share of third-party votes also dropped to 2.3% of the vote. Former DFL House staffer and campaign operative Todd Rapp thinks Trump's time in office and the controversies that have surrounded him have fundamentally changed the political landscape since 2016.

"Biden would have to lose more than 200,000 votes for this to be a close race," he said. "If this affects Biden's ability to win Minnesota, he has a much, much bigger problem. It won't just be about Israel and Hamas, it will be about other issues that have emerged that have made this a cascading problem."

The issue could be more urgent for the campaign in other Midwest battleground states such as Wisconsin and Michigan. More than 100,000 people voted uncommitted in Michigan's presidential primary. Their delegates and those from other states will join the 11 that Minnesota is sending to the DNC's convention in Chicago in August.

Mohammed said since the protest vote, there's been some movement from Biden, who is now pushing for a six-week cease-fire in Gaza. Their platform at the national convention means they can keep the pressure on until he supports a permanent cease-fire, she said.

"Until then there are people who are not going to show up," she said. "People keep asking me if I'm going to show up in November, and I keep saying, 'That depends on the president.'"