Joe Biden might have lost New Hampshire – and if he did, it isn’t because another Democrat contender stole the limelight or because some Republican or independent candidate swayed the masses. No, if the voters walk away from Biden, it will be only because he first walked away from them. The Granite State has called the president’s bluff, in a manner of speaking, and now it’s his move. Will the aging politician be true to his word and refuse to participate in the state’s Democratic Party primary, or will he backpedal and pander for the votes?
Perhaps the bigger question is: Would it matter? Biden stepped on this particular political punji stick when he put his foot down and threatened to stay off the ballot in New Hampshire and Iowa should either state fail to bow to his will by September 1 and agree to let South Carolina to hold the first primary. There’s no guarantee now that any action on his part can heal that self-inflicted electoral wound.
Biden’s Big Boo-Boo
As Liberty Nation’s Tim Donner pointed out back in June, “it is understandable that the sitting president has a soft spot for South Carolina.” It was here, after all, that the most influential Democrat in the state, Rep. James Clyburn (D-SC), saved Biden’s floundering 2020 presidential campaign, quite likely the reason Donald Trump didn’t face Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) in the general election.
But the way the thankful president chose to show that gratitude has become rather problematic. Generally, Iowa holds its caucus as the first overall presidential contest, then New Hampshire holds the first primary, then South Carolina holds the first primary in the South. Biden, however, decided the Palmetto State should be first this primary season, not first in the South and third overall. The people of Iowa and New Hampshire, however, don’t seem to share his enthusiasm.
Iowa since said the caucus will be held on January 15, 2024, though officials are reportedly hoping to find a way to still be the first presidential contest without violating national party rules. New Hampshire hasn’t yet scheduled its primary, but the current thinking is January 23, eight days after Iowa’s caucus. However, as NH Secretary of State David Scanlan pointed out, “If South Carolina is scheduled as the first primary, it would be at least seven days before that.” According to the president’s plan, South Carolina’s primary would be on February 6. Nevada and New Hampshire would have their contests on February 13, followed by Georgia on the 20 and Michigan on the 27.
Since neither state bowed to his will – with New Hampshire, at least, in open defiance – President Biden and the leaders of the Democratic National Committee are left with two bad choices: Either stay true to their word and skip these contests, pulling those state delegates from the national convention, or cave and admit it was a bluff all along. It’s a lose-lose situation, especially for the president.
New Hampshire Must Be First – It’s the Law
New Hampshire has been first on the list of presidential primary states since 1920. For more than 100 years this has been the tradition, and they take that very seriously. In the 1970s, the state passed a law requiring it. Section 653:9 of Title LXIII reads:
“The presidential primary election shall 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, whichever is earlier, of each year when a president of the United States is to be elected or the year previous. Said primary shall be held in connection with the regular March town meeting or election or, if held on any other day, at a special election called by the secretary of state for that purpose. The purpose of this section is to protect the tradition of the New Hampshire first-in-the-nation presidential primary.”
Iowa is the notable “exception” that tends to go first, but that’s because the NH law very specifically says “primary” so that states using the caucus format of presidential contest aren’t included.
Limited Options for the President
So because of the law in the state, Secretary of State Scanlan is obligated to schedule his state’s primary at least a week ahead of any other – and to reschedule it as needed should Biden and the DNC decide to keep trying to bump South Carolina’s up to be the first.
The most likely outcome here is that Biden remains off the primary ballot in New Hampshire. Should this happen, someone else will, by default, win the Democratic Party’s primary – probably Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., though author and spiritual advisor Marianne Williamson is also a possibility. As Ray Buckley, chair of the state’s Democratic Party, said, “This will set him up, we believe, for an embarrassing situation where the first primary in the country will be won by someone other than the president.”
Biden took the Granite State in 2020 by less than an 8% margin; a little under 60,000 votes stood between Trump and New Hampshire’s four electors. Can Biden afford to lose the state in what seems more and more likely to be a rematch? And what of the greater impact on the national campaign? If he skips it, he loses the first primary contest. If he doesn’t stand behind his ultimatum, he appears weak. After what many call a disastrous first term filled with scandal and failure, one could say that’s just par for the course. But how many more self-inflicted wounds can the incumbent suffer before he simply defeats himself?
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