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Dems Are Again in Disarray, This Time Over Primary Scheduling

AP Photo/Mary Schwalm

In recent weeks, there's been much chatter about granting South Carolina the status of first in the nation during the primary season, as opposed to Iowa which has a caucus. For what it's worth, Iowa certainly does have its problems, as there have been so many shenanigans in recent years, especially when it comes to how Democrats have handled the process. For Democrats clamoring to change the process, though, it's more so because Iowa supposedly lacks diversity. Can you say you're all that surprised, both when it comes to incompetence in the system and the priorities at hand? 

As Spencer covered last Friday, President Joe Biden signaled his support for bestowing the honor upon South Carolina. That's not entirely surprising, as Biden arguably won the nomination after winning South Carolina in March of 2020, with the help of House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn (D-SC), whose name carries quite a bit of weight there. Before then, he had been experiencing a slew of disappointing finishes in other states.

Ultimately, the DNC's Rules & Bylaws Committee approved suggestions from Biden that allowed South Carolina to go first on February 3, followed by New Hampshire and Nevada on February 6. Iowa isn't even among the top five states. Although the suggestions were approved, it was not without the unsurprising opposition from Iowa and New Hampshire.

While Spencer highlighted how Iowa Democrats were less than pleased, they weren't the only ones. Far from it. Again, there was opposition from New Hampshire. While Iowa went first, New Hampshire has had the first primary. 

On Monday night, the White House held the Congressional ball, though Jeanne Shaheen and Maggie Hassan, the state's two Democratic senators, were not in attendance. Julia Mueller with The Hill reported earlier that day that the two senators were not attending. 

Mueller also included statements from the senator's spokespeople:

“As Senator Shaheen has said, the President’s proposal unnecessarily makes Democrats in New Hampshire, from the top to the bottom of the ticket, vulnerable in 2024,” said the senator’s spokesperson, Sarah Weinstein, in a statement to The Hill. 

“This did not have to be a mutually exclusive decision – he could have advanced a more diverse state to an earlier date, while maintaining New Hampshire as the first primary election. Instead, New Hampshire Republicans were gifted the political fodder they’ve been waiting for to target Democrats and dissuade Independents from backing Democrats in pivotal local, state and federal elections,” Weinstein said.

Shaheen’s office confirmed the senator won’t be attending Monday night’s congressional ball at the White House due to frustration with Biden over the primary change. 

“Tonight, Senator Shaheen is focused on helping to make New Hampshire’s case heard,” the Shaheen spokesperson said.

...

Hassan’s office also said the senator will not attend Monday night’s ball over the Biden-backed plan, which she called “deeply misguided.”

“Because of our state’s small size, candidates from all walks of life — not just the ones with the largest war chests — are able to compete and engage in the unique retail politics that are a hallmark of our state. This ensures that candidates are battle-tested and ready to compete for our nation’s highest office,” Hassan previously wrote.

“We will always hold the First in the Nation Primary, and this status is independent of the President’s proposal or any political organization,” she added.

Shaheen also tweeted her frustration from her campaign account on Thursday, highlighting how, just as the statements above did, it's not merely about keeping things the way they were.

In addition to calling the decision "short-sighted" and "frustrating," she also indicated it's not necessarily the end of the road for New Hampshire's first in the nation status. 

Hassan, also from her campaign account, tweeted something very similar. She too doubled down on insisting that New Hampshire retain its status. 

As a local NBC News outlet out of the Greater Boston area also covered, it's ordinary residents who are displeased. That the senators skipped the event appears to be in solidarity with them. 

Rep. Chris Pappas (D-NH) also skipped out on the event, as Dan Alexander reported for Seacoast Current. Like the senators, he too had strong words about the move from his campaign Twitter account.

Rep. Ann McLane Kuster (D-NH), did not tweet about the event or primary schedule from either of her accounts. 

White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre was asked about the New Hampshire Democrats' reactions to the move during Monday's press briefing. Jean-Pierre, as is the case with so many questions, was unwilling to give a response, though this time she explained it was because of the Hatch Act prohibiting her from speaking too much about it with the connection to the 2024 election.

Jean-Pierre stressed that she would refer such questions to the DNC, as she did during previous press briefings where the issue of moving the schedule around was raised, before ranting about diversity.

"But again, as a candidate in 2020 and, as we have heard the night of New Hampshire primary, Joe Biden was very clear that, to him, respecting our diversity as a nation and breaking down barriers for our people is a fundamental principle," she claimed. And--and so, he believes that what Democrats in office stand for--and he has upheld that principle as president." This claim about how Biden has "upheld that principle" was furthered by Jean-Pierre adding "and so, again, you’ve seen him do that throughout his almost two years in administration, making sure that we see the diversity within his administration that is represented clearly across--across the country" and that Biden "wants to honor those values."

Once considered particularly vulnerable, Hassan just recently won reelection last month by almost 9 percentage points, with 53.44 percent of the vote to Republican opponent Don Bolduc's 44.55 percent. Bolduc had been boosted in the primary by Senate Democrats, as he was considered the easiest candidate for Hassan to beat. While Hassan was one of many Democratic candidates who sought to distance herself from Biden, she did appear with First Lady Jill Biden at a campaign event in late October.

The outrage from Republican Gov. Chris Sununu was just as strong, if not stronger. As a report by Adam Sexton from local news outlet WMRU highlighted, Sununu wasn't having any of it:

"So, now, the national Democrat Party is trying to change our state law," said Gov. Chris Sununu. "If it weren't so serious, it would be an absolute joke."

Sununu said the state will abide by its law to hold the first-in-the-nation primary. He said he thinks the move by the DNC is part of a scheme for President Joe Biden to insulate a potential re-election bid from any challengers.

"They're just letting one or two individuals, the powers that be, dictate that process," Sununu said. "It's absolutely wrong. It's everything that folks don't want to see happen in this country right now. Folks want it to be open. They want things to be fair. They want things to be done in that right person-to-person way, not just with the big money and the backroom politics."

As far as the DNC's legislative ultimatum goes, the window for filing a bill in the New Hampshire Legislature has closed. Even if individual Democratic state representatives wanted to try to work on the DNC's behalf, Senate Majority Leader Jeb Bradley said he will not bow to demands from a national political party.

"Not happening. Not happening at all," he said.

Regardless of party, the theme from outraged New Hampshire politicians focuses on the good that New Hampshire brings by being first in the nation. "You don't need the money. You don't need the name ID," Sununu also said, as mentioned in the report. "You just have to earn it person to person, town to town. And you can do that so much more effectively here than anywhere else in the country."

Sunu also won reelection last month, by double digits in fact, with 57.14 percent of the vote to Democrat Tom Sherman's 41.57 percent. 

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