Dem 51
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Democrats Wrestle with Their (Self-Created) New Hampshire Problem

The Senate is not the only place the Democrats are dealing with a bit of drama right now. As readers will recall, the DNC, with encouragement from Joe Biden, took steps to move South Carolina up in the primary process—right up to the front of the line. The problem is that New Hampshire has a law that says that it must always have the first primary, regardless of how early the state secretary of state has to set the date. New Hampshire governor and SoS are both Republicans, and not inclined to help change the law. And even if Democrats were running the show, they probably wouldn't want to change the law, either. Hence the problem.

As a result, at the moment, New Hampshire is scheduled to have its primary first, in defiance of the DNC. In theory, that means the DNC will punish the state, forbidding candidates from appearing on the ballot/campaigning there, and slashing or zeroing out the number of delegates the state is entitled to at the party's convention. In practice, it's not so simple. The blue team basically has three options right now, and none of them are great:

  1. Stick to Its Guns: The DNC could allow events to unfold as they are currently set to unfold. In that case, Biden would ignore the state and would not appear on its primary ballot. This would give an opening for Robert F. Kennedy or Marianne Williamson to "win" and get some attention, something the Democrats really don't want. It would also alienate voters in a swingy state. Just remember, if Al Gore had won New Hampshire, he wouldn't have needed Florida.

  2. Stage Its Own Primary: The DNC could ignore the state-run primary and stage its own primary on its preferred date (roughly 2 weeks after the state-run primary). However, this would cost something like $7 million, and would require the party to lay hands on several thousand voting machines, which is not so easily accomplished. Too bad they can't ask Donald Trump for a favor; we hear he has connections in Georgia when it comes to laying hands on voting machines. In any case, this option would also aggravate New Hampshire voters, who take no small amount of pride in their first-in-the-nation status.

  3. Surrender: The DNC could also yield, and allow New Hampshire to dictate terms. This would solve most of the problems we outline above, but would also send the message that states are laws unto themselves, and need not listen to the Party or to its leader (i.e., Joe Biden). Also, the point of moving South Carolina up in the order is to signal to Black voters that they are really important. Making that promise and then failing to follow through would have a real "40 acres and a mule" feel to it.

None of this should be a surprise. We wrote all about this on Jan. 30 and again on Feb. 6, the latter time with the headline: "The DNC Announces the 2024 Primary Calendar It Would Like" rather than "The DNC Announces the 2024 Primary Calendar." From day 1 it was crystal clear that New Hampshire, where the Republicans control the trifecta, was never going to agree to the Democrats' plans. What took them 5 months to figure out there was a BIG problem here?

At the moment, the Democrats' solution is to give New Hampshirites more time to straighten things out. But since New Hampshirites don't want to straighten things out, more time isn't exactly going to do much good. In the end, the blue team is probably going to have to settle for option #3, but with the caveat that a conversation has begun, and that there's going to be a serious discussion about the ordering of primaries in 2028. In the end, it's not terribly fair for a small, not especially representative state to exercise so much influence in each cycle. And one of these days, New Hampshirites are going to have to accept that other states should get a turn sometimes.

And as long as we're on the subject of primary scheduling, we'll note one other thing that is interesting, but not quite significant enough to be worthy of its own item. New York usually holds its primary a little on the late side; sometime in late April or early May (in 2020, it was initially scheduled for April 28, but was then moved to June 23 because of the pandemic). For 2024, the Empire State is taking a long look at April 2. This would not conflict with Passover, which is always a consideration for New York (in 2024, Passover will run from April 22 to April 30). In addition, neighboring Pennsylvania and Connecticut are also thinking about moving their primaries to April 2. If three neighboring states all hold their primaries on the same day, that creates a "regional primary" and the three states get extra delegates to the national convention, per DNC rules. So, New York, Pennsylvania and Connecticut readers who like to cast primary ballots in person, you'll want to make sure your umbrellas and raincoats are in good working order. (Z)

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