CONCORD, N.H. – The crucial general election battleground state of New Hampshire is upholding tradition and disregarding likely penalties from national Democrats by holding its presidential primary first.
A nearly year-long battle between New Hampshire and the Democratic National Committee (DNC) over the timing of the state’s century-old, first-in-the-nation presidential primary came to a culmination on Wednesday.
“The date of the New Hampshire first-in-the-nation presidential primary will be Jan. 23,” Secretary of State Dave Scanlan announced in front of a crowd of national and local reporters, state officials and lawmakers, the Democratic and Republican state party chairs, other political leaders, and dignitaries crowded into the Hall of Flags at the Statehouse in Concord.
The date that Scanlan announced formally put the state out of compliance with the DNC’s 2024 presidential nominating calendar.
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The state will now face sanctions from the Democrats, which could result in the loss of half of New Hampshire’s delegates to next summer’s national convention. Holding an unsanctioned primary has led President Biden to keep his name off the New Hampshire ballot, but Granite State Democrats have launched a write-in campaign in an attempt to prevent an electoral embarrassment for the president as he runs for a second term in the White House.
Republican Gov. Chris Sununu, a vocal critic of the move to upend New Hampshire’s cherished role in holding the first presidential primary, warned that “there’s no doubt that citizens all across New Hampshire, especially independents and Democrats, are taking notice that they’re being pushed aside by a national party. No one takes very kindly to that — especially in politics, being told that their voice doesn’t matter like it used to.”
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“I have no doubt it will have a lot of effect come November of ’24,” Sununu told reporters.
The governor predicted that “the precedent that President Biden has potentially set is no Democrat will ever dare try to skip New Hampshire again. Because I think it’s really going to hurt President Biden. It’s going to hurt his chances. It hurts the Democratic Party as a whole. They’ve tried every which way to move us off of our law, which we’re obviously not going to do…. Skip New Hampshire at your own peril.”
National Democrats for years have knocked both Iowa — whose caucuses for 50 years led off the party’s nominating calendar — and New Hampshire as unrepresentative of the party as a whole because the states have largely White populations with few major urban areas. Nevada and South Carolina, which in recent cycles have voted third and fourth on the calendar, are much more diverse than either Iowa or New Hampshire. Nevada and South Carolina were added to the Democratic calendar nearly two decades ago to increase the diversity of the early states’ electorate.
While Republicans aren’t making major changes to their schedule, the DNC earlier this year overwhelmingly approved a calendar proposed late last year by Biden to move South Carolina to the lead position on Feb. 3. New Hampshire and Nevada were scheduled to hold primaries three days later, with Iowa entirely losing its early state position. The president and supporters of the new calendar argued that it would empower minority voters, upon whom Democrats have long relied but have at times taken for granted.
To comply with the DNC, New Hampshire would have needed to scrap its state law protecting its first-in-the-nation primary status and expand access to early voting. However, with Republicans in control of the governor’s office and both houses of the state legislature, Democrats repeatedly argued that was a non-starter.
Scanlan noted that the date he set “complies with our state statute requiring our presidential primary be at least seven days before any similar event, and it preserves the position of the traditional Iowa caucus.”
The DNC’s Rules and Bylaws Committee — which oversees the party’s presidential nominating calendar — last month ruled that New Hampshire was conditionally noncompliant as the state was expected to announce a primary date outside the DNC’s window.
Scanlan told reporters that he didn’t buy national Democrats’ justification for changing the calendar because “New Hampshire is not racially diverse enough.”
“That is an appealing argument that will certainly impact individuals, but it’s not the real reason why this thing is going on,”
“New Hampshire doesn’t conform, and there are individuals at the national level — probably in both parties — that would like to be to say, ‘This is going to be the nominee. That’s the best person that has a chance of winning the presidency, and that’s the person we want on the general election ballot.’ New Hampshire is the polar opposite of that,” he argued “When you have a president that decides that he’s not going to put himself on the ballot before the voters of a state that is going to have a nominating event, I think that’s the wrong decision. I think it’s a sad choice.”
Scanlan said, “New Hampshire is for the average person who lives and works on Main Street.” He pushed back against what he claimed was “the national elite telling the voters of this country who’s the nominee’s going to be.”
Scanlan told Fox News that the DNC’s threats were “meaningless.”
“New Hampshire has a tradition and New Hampshire has a law. And both the tradition and the law were going to be followed no matter what. Now, the DNC will decide whether they are going to sanction New Hampshire somehow because we’re not complying with their calendar,” Scanlan said.
Sununu, pointing to the DNC, told reporters, “Everything they tried failed. We’re going first.”
There are plenty of Democrats in Iowa and New Hampshire who see the upending of their lead-off positions as sour grapes from Biden, who finished a disappointing fourth in the 2020 Iowa caucuses and fifth in the New Hampshire primary — before a second-place finish in Nevada and a landslide victory in South Carolina propelled him toward the nomination and eventually the White House.
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The president faces long-shot primary challenges from two Democrats who will be on the ballot in New Hampshire.
Three-term Rep. Dean Phillips of Minnesota, one of the wealthiest members of Congress, formally announced his presidential bid as he filed at the State House on Oct. 27 to place his name on the state’s ballot. Also on the Granite State ballot is the other challenger, bestselling author and spiritual adviser Marianne Williamson, who is making her second straight White House run.
While the president, who turns 81 next week, is the commanding front-runner for the nomination, polls indicate Biden faces mounting concerns from Democrats over his age. Those surveys also suggest that many Americans, including plenty of Democrats, don’t want the president to seek a second term in the White House.
There are concerns among Granite Staters that the move by the president and the DNC to revamp the nominating calendar, and his absence from the primary ballot, could lead to a ballot box setback for Biden in New Hampshire.
“Personally, I believe that the president is making a mistake by not putting his name on the ballot here,” Scanlan said.
But longtime New Hampshire based Democrat consultant Jim Demers — a top Biden supporter in the Granite State who’s helping to lead the primary ballot write-in effort on behalf of the president — disagreed with Sununu’s prediction that the battle over the primary date will impact Democrats next November.
“I think once the nomination is locked up, the convention takes place, Joe Biden will be back in New Hampshire campaigning,” Demers told the Monitor.
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