CONCORD, N.H. – President Biden’s changes to the 2024 presidential primary calendar is heading for a clash with New Hampshire’s cherished, generation’s old position as the first-in-the-nation presidential primary state.
“New Hampshire has a law that says we will go at least seven days before any similar event,” New Hampshire Secretary of State Dave Scanlan told Fox News Digital at his Statehouse office.
Scanlan is firm that “the Secretary of State schedules the date of the first-in-the-nation New Hampshire primary.”
New Hampshire has held the first primary in both the Democratic and Republican nominating calendars for a century. And for the last 50 years it’s held the second overall contest, following the Iowa caucuses. While the Republican National Committee’s keeping their order as is — with Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina, and Nevada as their first four states to vote in the schedule — the Democrats earlier this year upended that lineup.
The Democratic National Committee in early February overwhelmingly approved a plan by President Biden to move New Hampshire down in the primary schedule. New Hampshire is to vote second in the DNC’s calendar, along with Nevada, three days after South Carolina. The DNC moved Iowa entirely out of their lineup of the early voting — or carve out states — which hold nominating contests ahead of the rest of the nation.
Many Democrats for years have knocked Iowa and New Hampshire as unrepresentative of the party as a whole, for being largely White with few major urban areas. Nevada and South Carolina, which in recent cycles have voted third and fourth in the calendar, are much more diverse than either Iowa or New Hampshire.
The DNC emphasized that its push to dramatically alter the top of its presidential nominating calendar for the 2024 election cycle was a move to give more representation at the top of the schedule to Black and Hispanic voters in a party that’s become increasingly diverse in recent decades. And the president and supporters of the new nominating calendar argued that it would empower minority voter whom Democrats have long relied on but have at times taken for granted.
“This committee put together a calendar proposal that reflects our values and will strengthen our party. This calendar does what is long overdue. It expands the number of voices in the early window. And it elevates diverse communities that are at core of the Democratic Party,” DNC chair Jaime Harrison said earlier this year.
But New Hampshire Democrats have vigorously fought to keep their primary position. Longtime New Hampshire Democratic Party chair Ray Buckley has called the move by the DNC “mind-boggling” and a “self-inflicted wound” that would hurt the chances of Democratic candidates in 2024 in the key northeastern general election battleground state.
The DNC insists that New Hampshire, in order to keep its early voting slot in the new calendar, needs to scrap its decades-old state law that protects its first-in-the-nation primary status and must expand legislation to expand access to early voting. But with Republicans in control of New Hampshire’s governor’s office and both houses of the state legislature, Granite State Democrats argue that’s a non-starter.
The DNC a month ago gave New Hampshire an extension to come into compliance, but that just kicked the can down the road. The national party’s Rules and Bylaws Committee is expected to find the state non-compliant later this summer or early autumn.
Enter Scanlan, who will follow state law as he schedules the primary’s date.
“If South Carolina is scheduled as the first primary, it would be at least seven days before that,” Scanlan said.
That would likely move the date of the New Hampshire primary into late January.
As for his timetable, Scanlan said that “we will schedule the filing period, which will happen sometime this fall, and then after that I would expect to announce the date of the primary. However, we’re just going to watch the developments as they occur and will make decisions based on what happens. We still have plenty of time in this process.”
With New Hampshire nearly certain to move up the date of their contest, President Biden will likely stay off the ballot in New Hampshire to avoid an unsanctioned primary. And with Biden’s two primary challengers — environmental lawyer and high-profile vaccine skeptic Robert F. Kennedy Jr. and best-selling author and spiritual adviser Marianne Williamson — taking aim at the president and the DNC as they repeatedly campaign in New Hampshire, trouble could be brewing for the president in the Granite State’s primary.
“President Biden will not file for election in the New Hampshire primary, which will still go first,” Buckley predicted earlier this year. “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. This will only fuel chatter of about Democrats divisions.”
While he is the commanding front-runner in the Democratic presidential nomination polls, the 80-year-old Biden has faced plenty of concerns from Democrats over his age and physical and mental stamina and his approval ratings among all Americans have remained in negative territory for nearly two years.
But most Democrats argue any potential setbacks in unsanctioned contests in New Hampshire or Iowa won’t sidetrack Biden’s expected overwhelming renomination.
“The Democratic primary in a president’s re-election is never about any single state. It is about the opportunity to tout how that President has delivered for the American people with policies that have put working class and middle class families first,” veteran Democratic strategist Maria Cardona told Fox News.
Cardona, a DNC Rules and Bylaws Committee member, argued that “the Democratic Party had adopted a primary calendar that reflects the country and gives all communities a strong voice and vote. President Biden will run away with this primary and be our party’s nominee who will then go into a second term in the White House. And that is nothing to be embarrassed about.”
Back in New Hampshire, Scanlan says the battle over the primary has had a unifying affect by transcending the swing state’s increasingly bitter partisan politics.
“This is a battleground state and our state House of Representatives right now is almost equally divided between Republicans and Democrats,” said Scanlan a Republican who succeed longtime Democratic Secretary of State Bill Gardner. “It’s polarized. And we have some great debates based on political ideology, but I can tell you that there is one issue where the state is united — both Republicans and Democrats — and that is the first in the nation status of the New Hampshire primary.”