Foreign policy could play an outsized role in today's Super Tuesday election in Massachusetts. A campaign led by younger progressive Democrats to vote "No Preference" instead of President Biden picking up steam as a protest against Biden's Israel policy. Last week 13% of voters in the Michigan primary cast uncommitted ballots over Biden. Marsin Alshamary, an assistant professor of political science at Boston College who studies the Middle East, joined GBH’s Morning Edition co-host Jeremy Siegel to talk about this and the historical precedence of foreign policy playing so heavily into a presidential race. This transcript has been lightly edited for clarity.

Jeremy Siegel: So how would you describe the way Israel and Gaza are shaping Democratic politics at this moment?

Prof. Marsin Alshamary: It's quite unusual, because usually foreign policy doesn't play a major role in American elections. And if you think about the most recent election that was close to a very big development in the Middle East, it would be something like the 2004 election after the invasion of Iraq. And even then, it played a minor role. Usually, political scientists say that elections are driven by economic issues rather than foreign policy issues. So what we recently saw in Michigan with the uncommitted campaign is really unprecedented from my perspective, in that there's a small group of voters who have decided to form a coalition to voice their support for a ceasefire, for changing the policy, the American policy towards Israel. And, you know, if you think about the Arab American population in the U.S., it's only about 2 to 3%. But they've been very politically savvy in trying to use the ballot box in the way that they really can strategize, is to find a swing state in which they're quite powerful, and to make their voice heard that way.

Siegel: In the aftermath of that happening in the swing state of Michigan, we've seen that campaign pick up steam and end up in states like Massachusetts, where in today's election, there is this same push to hold a protest vote, to choose no preference rather than President Biden. What effect do you expect a campaign to have like this on the election?

Alshamary: I think what happened in Michigan is that there were several groups of people that managed to be able to pull off this campaign. This was a large Arab American community, the largest in the U.S., a lot of Muslim Americans as well, as well as young and progressive voters. In Massachusetts you have a different set of voters. So you don't have as big of an American Muslim community, but you still have a very big progressive community. And so I think it won't be to the same magnitude of Michigan. But I still think that you'll see a difference. And I think it's important for people to feel like they can still impact politics through the traditional democratic mechanisms, especially as a conversation about the U.S.'s democratic backsliding, is expanding across all all the media that we consume these days. So I think it is important for people to feel like, in addition to protesting for a ceasefire, you know, we've seen all these protests in Copley Square and elsewhere — but this feels like a tangible political thing that you can do to send a message to your elected representatives.

Siegel: What sort of effect do you expect this to have for the general election? Because there is a portion of the Democratic Party who is saying, why engage in a protest like this when it could hurt President Biden and lead to former President Trump ending up in the White House again, someone who many of these younger, progressive or Arab American voters presumably would be opposed to holding the White House over President Biden?

Alshamary: It's a very serious concern. So on one hand, you know, I don't study American political science. But I can still do the math on this. Trump won [Michigan] by a margin of about 10,000 votes in 2016, and the uncommitted campaign hit over 100,000 votes. And that was the symbolic threshold they wanted to reach was just 10,000 to show, like, look how we were able to secure, in Michigan, this victory. For Trump, based on a very small margin like this, can easily be replicated again if we choose to punish Biden in this way.

Siegel: That is Boston College Prof. Marsin Alshamary. Thank you so much for your time.

Alshamary: Thank you so much.