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Do Democrats in Disarray Mean Biden is in Trouble in This Key State?

AP Photo/Mary Schwalm

Last Tuesday, President Joe Biden made his reelection campaign official. While he may have his advantages as an incumbent president, there's a lot of factors going against Biden. Polls show that most Americans don't think he should run, and that this even includes a majority of his fellow Democrats. Many cite issues with Biden's age, who is 80-years-old, and would be 86 when he left office, if he served two full terms.

Then there are issues that involve Biden and the DNC's own doing. So devoted are they to equity concerns and the primary process reflecting the "diversity of America" that late last year they went for a primary shakeup to upend the process. It was approved in February. 

You see, they consider New Hampshire to be too white, especially compared to South Carolina, which was chosen to have the first primary in place of New Hampshire. South Carolina also happens to be where Rep. Jim Clyburn (D-SC) is from, who is credited with boosting Biden in the 2020 Democratic presidential primary. The shakeup also means that Iowa, which was first but was a caucus, will no longer be in the top stop.

It's not just that Republicans in New Hampshire and Iowa are outraged. Both states are controlled by Republican governors and who have taken none too kindly to the new calendar, something Biden and the DNC clearly didn't think through. As Spencer pointed out in February, the new calendar conflicts with state law:

Like many other centralized, top-down policies preferred by Democrats, their new calendar apparently failed to consider that there are state laws and other issues at play that, at present, mean their new primary schedule can't be followed. 

New Hampshire's primary, for example, is required by state law to "be held on the second Tuesday in March or on a date selected by the secretary of state which is 7 days or more immediately preceding the date on which any other state shall hold a similar election." The Republicans who control the Granite State's government aren't inclined to change the primary date to accommodate Democrats because the Republican primary schedule for 2024 has not changed. 

If New Hampshire's law isn't changed and the state Democrats don't figure out a creative solution to get around holding a primary, they're technically required to hold their primary at least one week before South Carolina's — undoing the DNC's plan to have the Palmetto State go first. 

The Democrats aren't too happy either. The disarray that the party is feeling, in New Hampshire especially, could even cause problems for Biden when the primary does come around there, which is now slated for the second spot, on February 6.  

That's the scene painted in a POLITICO report from Sunday, which warns that "Messing with New Hampshire’s primary could have consequences for Biden and the ballot, senator says."

It's not merely that "New Hampshire Democrats have said they were blindsided and betrayed by Biden’s move to strip New Hampshire of its prized first primary," though they certainly are letting that be known, and "have publicly and privately fought both the president and the DNC on the matter." It's that the move could turn off Independent voters, who make up a large part of the electorate in New Hampshire. 

According to Independent Voter Project, 41.16 percent of voters, which is a plurality, are unaffiliated. 

Both of the state's Democratic senators, Jeanne Shaheen and Maggie Hassan, have expressed their discontent over the move. Reps. Chris Papas and Annie Kuster, Democratic members of the New Hampshire delegation, have as well. And they've indeed done so publicly, through tweets and media appearances, as well as co-authored opinion pieces calling out the move.

This most recent report focuses on Shaheen and her pre-taped comments for a program known as "On the Record," a local ABC News affiliate:

“The president could have had more diversity — which is the reason he gave for wanting to change the current order — he could have moved another state earlier without doing what he did to New Hampshire,” Shaheen said during a pre-taped appearance on “On the Record,” a Sunday politics show on ABC’s local affiliate in Boston.

“It’s unfortunate, because I think it has an impact [on] the independent voters who are very important in New Hampshire, and who are going to be very important to any reelection of the next president,” Shaheen said. “And it also has an impact on Democrats up and down the ticket.”

...

Removing New Hampshire’s first-in-the-nation primary status could chase independent voters into the arms of the GOP, Shaheen cautioned Sunday. New Hampshire has open primaries, and undeclared voters are the largest share of registered voters in the state.

New Hampshire voters, particularly independents, are very engaged in elections, considering candidates on both sides of the aisle, Shaheen said.

“The fact that we would now discount their participation, I think, is unfortunate,” said Shaheen, who is not up for reelection until 2026. “And again, I think it has implications for Democrats in the state — hopefully not for the general election, but we don’t know that yet.”

The state is governed by Chris Sununu, who handily won reelection last November by 15.5 points. He's long expressed his refusal to go along with the changes, putting Biden and the DNC in quite the spot, as POLITICO mentions:

Now the state is poised to go rogue and hold the first primary anyway. The DNC gave New Hampshire — and Georgia, which Biden wants to move up in the process — until early June to make the necessary adjustments to stay in the early state window. But Republicans who control the governor’s office and the legislature in New Hampshire are refusing to change the state law that requires its primary to be held a week before any others.

That puts Biden in a predicament of his own making. If he participates in an unsanctioned primary he risks violating party rules, which would likely impose sanctions on candidates or states in violation. (A Biden campaign aide said the president and his team would abide by any sanctions imposed by the DNC, if it gets to that point.)

But if Biden skips New Hampshire, he could cede the unofficial first contest to Robert F. Kennedy Jr. and self-help guru Marianne Williamson, an outcome that’s unlikely to threaten his chances for renomination but that would still be an embarrassing start to the process.

While Biden's primary challengers of Robert F. Kennedy Jr. and Marianne Williamson are mentioned briefly, what's not mentioned is that the New England area and New Hampshire is more so RFK Jr.'s territory. 

Very much going for Biden is that the DNC won't be holding primary debates, as Katie highlighted around the time of the president's announcement, and Matt also covered how the calendar is very much in Biden's favor. 

As addressed in last night's VIP piece, RFK Jr. is actually polling with 19 percent in a Fox News poll and 21 percent in an Emerson poll. Both were conducted right around the time the president made his reelection bid official. 

The comments from this article, as well as specific polling out of New Hampshire, were also mentioned in a POLITICO nightly newsletter from last week:

The most recent polling out of the state suggests Biden still has much work to do. According to an April University of New Hampshire Granite State Poll, 50 percent of likely Democratic primary voters say Biden definitely or probably should not run for president in 2024. Just 43% think he definitely or probably should run.

The New Hampshire primary situation, veteran Democratic strategist Mary Anne Marsh told Nightly, is “an unnecessary disadvantage.”

“It won’t be a death knell,” she said. “But it does make it tougher in New Hampshire — it’ll be like ‘cleanup in aisle New Hampshire’ for the general election.”

Biden came in a dismal fifth in New Hampshire for the 2020 Democratic presidential primary, with 8.4 percent of the vote. When it comes down to the general election, New Hampshire has voted for the Democratic presidential nominee each year since 2004. Biden beat former President Donald Trump by 7.3 points in 2020.

Both Trump and Gov. Ron DeSantis (R-FL), who could announce his presidential run this month, have appeared in New Hampshire. Sununu has also teased a presidential run of his own. 

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