New Hampshire’s Democratic presidential primary may end up counting, after all.
Democratic National Committee Chair Jaime Harrison suggested on Saturday that he’s open to finding a way to seat New Hampshire’s delegates at this summer’s nominating convention, after President Joe Biden won the state’s unsanctioned primary last month.
Doing so would be a remarkable — but not unprecedented — about-face for the DNC, which stripped the Granite State of its favored position on the nominating calendar, elevating South Carolina to the lead-off spot for this cycle at Biden’s request.
The change prompted a bitter intraparty feud. But if New Hampshire’s delegates are seated come summer, the state might have the venerable South Carolina Rep. Jim Clyburn to thank for it.
Minutes after Biden was projected to win South Carolina’s primary on Saturday, Clyburn, standing beside Harrison at a watch party there, called on the DNC to seat New Hampshire’s delegates, citing the New Hampshire law requiring the state to hold its primary a week before any similar contest.
“I believe, Jaime, that it’s time for us to ask our Rules committee not to hold the state law in New Hampshire against our Democrats,” Clyburn said. “They worked hard, and they won a victory. And I would like to see as a sign of us all coming together. … Let the Rules committee figure out a way.”
Harrison shook Clyburn’s hand. “When the boss speaks,” Harrison said, laughing, “We’ll have to work on that, congressman.”
Later, Harrison told reporters, “We at the DNC, we’ll look at what we have to do, and we’ll get back to the congressman.”
The decision about whether to count New Hampshire’s Democratic delegates is up to the DNC’s Rules and Bylaws Committee. The panel passed rules heading into this election cycle that could cost New Hampshire half its delegates for breaking with the party’s nominating calendar. But the party has backtracked on sanctions before — easing penalties on Florida and Michigan in 2008 after they broke party rules and held their primaries too early.
Harrison’s Saturday night remark comes two days after the RBC pushed off until a later date a discussion about whether to sanction New Hampshire.
Jim Roosevelt, who co-chairs the Rules committee, told POLITICO that he “appreciate[d]” Clyburn’s view and that the panel “will take that into account” when it revisits the issue.
Kathy Sullivan, a longtime New Hampshire Democratic operative who helmed a super PAC that aided the Biden write-in effort, predicted Clyburn’s support “will carry a lot of weight with the DNC.”
“Half of the [New Hampshire] delegates elected so far are young people, and they are really looking forward to going to [the] convention,” Sullivan said.
Jim Demers, another New Hampshire-based Democratic operative who helped lead the Biden write-in effort there, expressed gratitude for Clyburn’s support.
“New Hampshire and South Carolina voters have demonstrated significant unity and support for President Biden’s reelection, and I hope the DNC will recognize that by seating our delegates,” Demers said.
New Hampshire Democratic Party Chair Ray Buckley said he looks forward to “winning in November, having a great convention and we will continue to work with D.C. folks about getting there.”
Biden began pushing in late 2022 to make South Carolina — a more diverse state that propelled him to the nomination in 2020 — the first primary for this cycle. The move blindsided some of New Hampshire’s top Democrats and prompted bipartisan outrage in the state.
Republicans who control the state’s government refused to change the law requiring it to hold the first primary. In response, the president passed on putting his name on the ballot in New Hampshire, forcing allies to wage a write-in campaign on his behalf.
Biden won New Hampshire’s Democratic primary decisively, with 64 percent of the vote on a write-in campaign compared to 20 percent for his next-closest competitor, Rep. Dean Phillips (D-Minn.), who was on the ballot. This past week, Biden met with New Hampshire’s all-Democratic congressional delegation in what appeared to be an attempt to smooth things over.
Manny Espitia, a former Democratic state representative in New Hampshire who helped with the write-in campaign, said seating the state’s delegates would be “a wonderful move” that “shows that the efforts of New Hampshire voters writing in and supporting the president is being recognized.”
Elena Schneider contributed to this report.
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