Republicans aren’t the only ones voting for a presidential nominee tomorrow in New Hampshire. Democrats, too, will head to the polls – where some may be surprised to discover their ballots don’t feature President Joe Biden’s name.
Because of a disagreement between the Democratic National Committee and Granite State officials over the primary calendar, the Democratic ballot here lists some two dozen candidates – ranging from self-funded Rep. Dean Phillips of Minnesota and author Marianne Williamson to a rapper from Brooklyn and a plumber from Maryland – but not the incumbent president of the United States. Voters wanting to back Mr. Biden on Tuesday will have to write him in.
It all stems from a decision last year by the DNC to put South Carolina first on its schedule of nominating contests – bumping New Hampshire from its century-old kickoff primary to a shared second place with Nevada. South Carolina, the reasoning went, is more racially diverse than New Hampshire and thus more reflective of the party’s voters nationwide. Perhaps not unrelatedly, Mr. Biden also did terribly (fifth place!) in New Hampshire’s 2020 primary, but rebounded in South Carolina and went on to win the nomination.
Why We Wrote This
Democrats voting for President Biden in New Hampshire will have to write in his name, thanks to the state’s dispute with the national party. Activists here hope to turn lemons into lemonade.
Granite State Democrats reacted to the snub by opting to hold their primary first, anyway. They say they had little choice: New Hampshire’s “first in the nation” status, they note, is mandated by state law.
Mr. Biden still declined to add his name to the ballot and has not campaigned here. Tuesday’s contest will be essentially for show, with no delegates at stake.
Yet Democrats also realized they didn’t want Mr. Biden to suffer an embarrassing “defeat” here. So party activists belatedly wound up organizing a “write-in Biden” campaign, with sign-waving on street corners, TV ads, and flyers flooding Democratic voters’ mailboxes with instructions on how to add the president’s name to their ballots.
Cabinet members and prominent elected officials have flooded New Hampshire in recent days in support of Mr. Biden – from Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg and Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack to Rep. Ro Khanna of California and Boston Mayor Michelle Wu.
Some say the situation paradoxically has helped energize Democrats, at a time when polls show Mr. Biden broadly suffering from an enthusiasm deficit.
“From an organizing standpoint, there’s already more happening for Joe Biden in New Hampshire than the rest of the country,” says Kathy Sullivan, former chair of the New Hampshire Democratic Party and now treasurer of a group organizing the Biden write-in effort.
A poll released Sunday by CNN and the University of New Hampshire showed 63% of the state’s Democrats planned to write in Mr. Biden, with Representative Phillips at 10% and Ms. Williamson at 9%.
Whether the grassroots effort might persuade the DNC to rethink New Hampshire’s place in future cycles, however, is less clear. Some observers see this year as the end of an era for the state’s “first in the nation” contest, and all its storied traditions.
“When candidates decide it’s not in their strategic interest to compete here, that’s it,” says Fergus Cullen, a former state GOP chair and author of a history of the New Hampshire primary.