The standoff between the Democratic National Committee and New Hampshire Democrats will take center stage at the national party’s annual meeting this week in Philadelphia where members are expected to pass President Biden’s plan to overhaul the presidential nomination calendar.
New Hampshire Democrats have been recalcitrant in rejecting Mr. Biden’s move to strip them of their status as host of the first-in-the-nation primary. They warn that they cannot fall in line because Gov. Chris Sununu and Republicans refuse to rewrite a decades-old state law mandating New Hampshire hold the nation’s first presidential primary.
The vote on Saturday won’t be the end of the game of chicken.
New Hampshire will have until June 3 to try to fulfill the DNC’s demands. Otherwise, they could be hit with penalties, including being stripped of delegates to the national convention.
“On [the] New Hampshire side, they are willing to play this out as long as they have to in order to protect that first-in-the-nation status,” said Josh Putnam, a political scientist and consultant specializing in delegate selection rules, presidential campaigns and elections. “If that means it gets down to arguing whether New Hampshire’s delegation gets seated at the convention next year, they will do that.”
“Their bet is the party is going to fold at the end and seat the New Hampshire delegation because the ultimate goal is to bring the party together — rather than offend New Hampshire Democrats.”
Mr. Putnam said the biggest question is how far the DNC is willing to go to punish New Hampshire Democrats if they go rogue.
Under the Biden plan, South Carolina is set to kick off the nomination race on Feb. 6 followed by Nevada and New Hampshire on Feb. 13, Georgia on Feb. 20, and Michigan on Feb. 27.
Despite the grumbling from New Hampshire, members of the DNC say they are committed to the president’s vision.
They have pushed back against the idea New Hampshire was blindsided, and that tradition dictates it should go first.
“Hanging their argument on this 100-year-old privilege is really, for me, as an African American woman, quite disturbing in as much as this law that they passed was passed even before Black people had the right to vote,” Leah Daughtry, a DNC member from New York, said last week at a rules and bylaws committee meeting. “So to say something that happened over 100 years, quite frankly, before women had the right to vote, and before Black people had the right to vote, and somehow that makes it sacrosanct, then I am going to ask my governor in the state of New York to pass a law so we can go first.”
Mo Elleithee, a DNC member who has fought for change, said New Hampshire is not getting a raw deal.
”This notion that New Hampshire is the first-in-the-nation is a bit of a fallacy,” Mr. Elleithee said at the same meeting. “New Hampshire has historically been second in the nation behind Iowa. That has been its role.” Iowa holds caucuses rather than primaries.
“Let’s be real, it has been viewed as the second-in-the-nation contest,” Mr. Elleithee said. “Based on our proposal, it is still the second-in-the-nation contest. We have maintained the tradition that New Hampshire has asked us to maintain.”
New Hampshire leaders say the DNC has put them in a no-win situation.
They say they cannot change the 1975 state law requiring that the New Hampshire primary be scheduled before any other state because they do not control the levers of state government, and cannot unilaterally do so.
“We did our very best to explain to them the conundrum that New Hampshire primary is in, and certainly applaud their efforts to further highlight Black voters and Latino voices and we are wholeheartedly in support of that,” Ray Buckley, chair of the New Hampshire Democrats, told The Washington Times. “But we think we can do that while facing the reality that New Hampshire is going to go first and how do we make it work.”
New Hampshire advocates say the calendar change could hurt Mr. Biden’s ability to carry the state in the 2024 election, putting its four electoral votes at risk.
They caution Mr. Biden also could be dealt an embarrassing primary loss if he refuses to run in the state as a way to punish the party.
New Hampshire and Georgia have been given until June 3 to meet the party’s requirements.
The DNC has penalized states in previous elections for defying the party and moving up their nomination contests.
In 2008, the DNC initially declared the delegates from those states would not be counted, but later revised the stance so half of the delegates were seated.
• Seth McLaughlin can be reached at email@example.com.
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