New Hampshire

National Democrats ready to vote on Biden plan to move NH from first primary slot in 2024

The Democratic National Committee begins its winter session Thursday in Philadelphia.

On the agenda is President Biden’s plan to rearrange the calendar for the 2024 presidential nomination; and on the chopping block is New Hampshire’s place at the head of the line.

Biden proposes voting first in South Carolina in 2024. Under his plan, New Hampshire and Nevada would both hold their primary elections a week later.

Based on the DNC Rules and Bylaws Committee’s overwhelming vote last week to support Biden’s proposal (New Hampshire’s representative on the committee, Joanne Dowdell, was the only dissenter), local Democrats who want the Granite State’s place on the calendar want to keep their work cut out for you.

Here are three things to consider when the DNC meets this week:

For national Democrats, the NH primary is a “privilege,” not a right.

The tenor of last week’s DNC Rules and Bylaws Committee meeting was instructive on this point. Every non-New Hampshire member who spoke expressed frustration at the state Democrats’ handling of the proposed calendar debate. A point that’s been made repeatedly: New Hampshire’s predominantly white demographic makeup doesn’t reflect much of the party’s national demographics or honor the segment of the party — voters of color, and particularly black voters — that put Biden on his way to the White House in 2020 to have .

The idea that New Hampshire doesn’t really represent the national Democratic Party isn’t new. The same goes for similar arguments about Iowa. While some Democrats here feel like New Hampshire is being tossed over Iowa’s incompetence in administering the last caucus, it’s also clear that New Hampshire’s continued insistence on going first has left many national Democratic officials at least deaf feels or maybe even a bit racist.

“To attach your argument to a 100-year-old privilege is actually quite disturbing to me, as an African American, because this law they passed was in effect before black people even had the right to vote,” New York DNC member Leah Daughtry, a Dartmouth graduate, remarked at last week’s Rules and Bylaws Committee meeting.

First in the Nation isn’t a universal assessment of NH’s role—then or now.

At the same committee meeting last week, DNC member Mo Elleithee, who has worked in New Hampshire as a presidential campaign staffer, was pointed to New Hampshire in this regard.

While Elleithee hailed the state as a “magical place” for politics, he was outspoken when assessing where he thinks New Hampshire falls short. He slammed New Hampshire’s Democratic officials for arguing that Biden had jeopardized his 2024 prospects here — claiming that it was impossible to meet the DNC goals to allow for an early vote and absentee voting here without an apology to enact.

“I’m a little frustrated that people in the New Hampshire Democratic establishment are publicly sounding more like the Republican governor,” Elleithee once said during the Jan. 25 meeting.

Elleithee also questioned the legitimacy of New Hampshire’s longstanding claim as “first in the nation,” noting that the primary here preceded the Iowa caucus by decades.

“Let’s face it… it’s always been considered the second-biggest competition in the nation. At our suggestion, it’s still the second largest competition in the nation. We’ve maintained the tradition that New Hampshire has asked us to uphold,” said Elleithee.

This primary side threat is different, but in a way the bottom line remains the same

That this challenge to New Hampshire comes from a seemingly unified national political party led by an incumbent president eyeing his own re-election sets it apart from repelling another state hoping to skip New Hampshire on the nomination calendar.

But New Hampshire still has a lot to offer.

For one thing, the state has little reason to cooperate. State law requires New Hampshire to hold its primary election a week before similar elections. State officials, including Gov. Chris Sununu and Secretary of State David Scanlan, say laws are being obeyed regardless of the DNC’s wishes.

The DNC can sanction the state Democratic Party – by withdrawing delegates or denying members entry to the 2024 national party convention. But there is little evidence that such punishments will be convincing.

“I understand their frustration,” Democratic Party leader Ray Buckley said last week. “But they’re from Washington, they’re used to getting their way on the first try, and they realize they’re in a situation that’s a little more complicated than they thought.”

Buckley didn’t explicitly state what he meant by that, but he may have been alluding to the fact that what constitutes New Hampshire’s primary relevance — the political context and whether candidates choose to show up and campaign here — is not political absolute control of the party. The DNC can, and likely will, incentivize candidates not to attend here in 2024. But candidates will ultimately make their own calculations.

That’s something Democrats interested in keeping the elementary school intact here can pin their hopes on.

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