Top Democrats know they have a massive problem on their hands when it comes to the scheduling of the 2024 New Hampshire primary.
And when they convened this week to find ways to keep President Joe Biden from ceding the state’s early nominating contest to a fringe candidate, they settled on a tried and true resolution: putting it off to a later date.
The Democratic National Committee’s Rules and Bylaws Committee voted as expected on Friday to give New Hampshire until Sept. 1 to comply with the national party’s requirements to move its primary behind South Carolina’s in early February — or get kicked out of the official early state window for 2024.
“There’s some space between us and the folks in the state on this,” Minyon Moore, co-chair of the Rules and Bylaws Committee, said during Friday’s meeting in Minneapolis. “But as we’ve said all along, the president wants New Hampshire in the early state lineup. And this committee has long agreed that it is a critical state and should be part of the mix.”
But even as the committee gave New Hampshire another three months to get in line, there was little reason to expect a friendly resolution.
Biden pushed for changes to the party’s presidential nominating calendar for 2024 that stripped New Hampshire of its prized first-in-the-nation primary in an effort to reward South Carolina, which propelled him to the nomination in 2020. Under the DNC’s plan, New Hampshire would go second, on a shared date with Nevada.
But New Hampshire’s state law requires it hold the first primary a week before any other similar contest. And Republicans who control the governor’s office and state legislature are unwilling to change it. Nor are they willing to push through other voting-law changes the DNC is requiring for states in the early window for 2024.
So on Friday, Democrats were really buying themselves more time to decide whether and how they’re going to sanction New Hampshire Democrats if — and, most likely, when — the state goes rogue and holds the first primary, anyway. Under penalties the DNC’s Rules and Bylaws Committee passed last year, the state could lose half its delegates if it breaks with the party’s calendar. But there was no mention of sanctions during the rules committee’s brief discussion on New Hampshire on Friday.
New Hampshire Democratic Party Chair Ray Buckley didn’t comment on the latest extension beyond saying he looks “forward to hearing” from the DNC.
Biden is unlikely to appear on the ballot if New Hampshire goes first, creating an awkward situation in which the president could lose an unofficial early contest to Robert F. Kennedy Jr. or Marianne Williamson, both of whom have indicated they’re planning to compete in New Hampshire regardless of its status or sanctions. But Democrats could wage a write-in campaign for Biden, to help him avoid an early embarrassment en route to his inevitable renomination.
The president already isn’t getting the 2024 primary calendar he wants. Biden’s initial proposal had slated South Carolina for Feb. 6, New Hampshire and Nevada on Feb. 13, Georgia on Feb. 20 and then Michigan on Feb. 27. But Republican Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger defied Democrats’ wishes and set his state’s presidential primary for March 12 — after Super Tuesday.
And Iowa continues to give Democrats trying to knock the state out of the early nominating window a headache. Iowa Democrats submitted a plan for a “reimagined” caucus system that would let people participate by mail. But the Rules and Bylaws Committee rejected that plan on Friday — sending Iowa back to the drawing board.
Holly Otterbein contributed to this report.
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