New Hampshire

After bitter RNC meeting, Democrats look to project unity

WASHINGTON (AP) — A week after bitter divisions dominated a Republican national gathering, Democrats, holding their own meeting, are looking to show how united they are.

There will be no contest for the party leadership as Jaime Harrison does not stand for re-election until 2025. There is no candidate jostling for a White House bid as President Joe Biden is expected to seek a second term. And after a surprisingly strong half-time record, there is no national reckoning.

The only real sticking point for the Democratic National Committee’s winter meeting in Philadelphia this weekend is a proposed overhaul of the 2024 presidential election calendar, which has angered top party leaders in New Hampshire. But even that is largely moot, as Biden is unlikely to face much of a challenge for the nomination.

The DNC is expected to approve a new lineup for the party’s presidential primary on Saturday, shelving Biden, who campaigned for the Feb. 3 primary inaugural vote in South Carolina. New Hampshire and Nevada would join three days later on February 6. Georgia comes next on February 13 and Michigan two weeks after that.

The president has argued that replacing the party’s primary in Iowa, a white-majority state, with a presidential primary in South Carolina, where nearly 27% of the population is black, would strengthen voters of color on whom Democrats rely, but have accepted granted.

The party stands firmly behind Biden, who is seeking a second term despite being the oldest president in US history and revealing he may have mishandled official documents. Unity remains his mantra after Republicans cast 15 ballots last month just to elect a House Speaker, with GOP members nearly coming to a scuffle on the House floor.

“We’re standing up to a mad Republican House and actually defending our early years’ achievements. So there’s just no point in saber-rattling about a future race now when we’re all just kind of fighting together,” said Adam Green, co-founder of the Progressive Change Campaign Committee, which supported Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, rather than Biden, in the presidential primary 2020 Democrats.

Warren, along with Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders and other key Democratic presidential candidates for 2020, say they expect Biden to run again and will support him if he makes an official offer.

Instead, Sanders is asking the DNC to ban accepting funding from super-PACs and other outside political groups during future Democratic primaries. That’s an idea some Democratic elders have rejected, arguing that Republican candidates will continue to accept such financial support and that their party should not “unilaterally disarm.”

Yet even most leading progressive organizations and grassroots activist groups have shied away from suggesting that Biden may face a major primary challenge. President Jimmy Carter’s defeat by Republican Ronald Reagan in the 1980 election followed a strong key challenge from Senator Edward M. Kennedy.

Harrison, who rose to national prominence with an unsuccessful bid in 2020 against South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham, will remain chairman until after next year’s presidential race. That is in stark contrast to Ronna McDaniel, who won another term as chair of the Republican National Committee at a controversial meeting in California last week. Members openly questioned the GOP’s mid-term performance and former President Donald Trump’s continued influence on the party.

Harrison was in tears during a party rules committee meeting in December when the Democrats’ new main calendar was first approved and predicts he could get emotional again this weekend. He recalled voting with his grandfather before his death in 2004 and how the US Constitution once counted his black ancestors in South Carolina as three-fifths of a person.

“They didn’t always think I was a whole man in this state,” Harrison recalled of his grandfather’s words, before urging him, “Never let anyone tell you that you don’t matter.”

“That this president would step into the tradition of the Democratic Party — going to Iowa, going to New Hampshire, to say, you know what, it’s time now that we get the votes of people like my grandfather, like my grandmother , allow them to have a say in determining who should become President of the United States,” Harrison added. “For me, I was emotional about it.”

But the new cast has its critics. New Hampshire, already a battleground state for general elections, has a law mandating the holding of the nation’s first presidential primary, which Iowa only bypassed with its caucus. Its Democrats have joined with top-state Republicans to promise to hold the country’s first presidential primary next year independent of the DNC calendar.

That raises the possibility that if Biden bypassed a breakaway New Hampshire elementary school, he could lose the state to a challenger fighting unopposed there.

Such a scenario could create a “potential embarrassment” for Biden that “creates an opening for an insurgent candidate — serious or not — to draw media attention and Granite Staters’ anger at the fact that he was sidelined.” can capitalize on,” Ray Buckley, chairman of the New Hampshire Democratic Party, wrote to the DNC Rules Committee.

Joanne Dowdell, a New Hampshire DNC Rules Committee member, echoed the same theme, noting, “None of us want to start a re-election campaign like that.”

That probably won’t stop the DNC from approving the new main calendar. But the proposal has drawn some opposition beyond New Hampshire.

Matt Hughes, a DNC member and second vice chairman of North Carolina’s Democratic Party, was the first to sign a letter issued Thursday to DNC members by local officials from his state as well as Nevada, Michigan and Georgia. It urged the party to choose the first primary state from a competitive state like these four – arguing that doing so would allow Democrats to focus campaign resources on areas more competitive in general elections than deeply Republican South Carolina.

Hughes said such calls should not be viewed as defiance of Biden. Instead, he said, the party, with an incumbent president who will not face any primary opposition, is the perfect time to make changes that will shape future cycles.

“Absolutely what we should be thinking about is the long-term implications. In 2024, it makes a lot of sense. This is a relatively small impact,” said Hughes. “This is the perfect opportunity to talk about the state line-up without regard to possible candidates in this area, who benefits and who loses.”

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