New Hampshire Democratic Party Chairman Ray Buckley suggested during a TV interview that Rep. Jim Clyburn, the top-ranking Black member of the House, didn’t understand what he was saying when he told reporters the state lost its first-in-the-nation primary so Biden could “avoid embarrassment.”
Buckley has been struggling to manage the fallout for months after New Hampshire Democrats lost their official first-in-line primary slot on his watch. Clyburn recently told CNN the Democratic National Committee’s decision to move South Carolina to the front of the line was not a reaction to the state’s overwhelmingly White voting population but instead an attempt to spare President Joe Biden the embarrassment of another poor primary performance in the Granite State.
“I don’t think you’re stacking the deck,” Clyburn told CNN’s Chris Wallace. “I think you’re avoiding embarrassment. And that is what he is attempting to avoid here. And I would expect anybody to do the same.”
Asked by WMUR’s Adam Sexton about Clyburn’s claim, Buckley raised the congressman’s age and whether he was simply parroting something others had told him rather than sharing his own insights. (Clyburn, 82, is the third-ranking House Democrat.)
“Well, perhaps somebody said that to Congressman Clyburn, who is a senior, elder, respected member of Congress. But the reality is just simply not true,” Buckley said.
When NHJournal read Buckley’s comment to a Democratic campaign strategist based in Washington, the reply was, “Wow. Did Ray really say that?”
Biden came in fifth in the 2020 New Hampshire presidential primary behind Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), small-town Mayor Pete Buttigieg, Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), and Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.).
And, Buckley predicted, Biden “is going to be on the ballot” in New Hampshire, and he will outperform incumbent presidents Bill Clinton and Barack Obama in their second-term primaries.
“Bill Clinton was able to get 84 percent of the vote [in 1996]. Barack Obama received 82 percent of the vote [in 2012]. Frankly, I believe that Joe Biden, when this is all said and done, is going to be on the ballot, and he’s going to get more than that for reelection.”
Buckley declined to clarify his remarks about “senior, elder” Clyburn.
The New Hampshire primary has become politically problematic for Biden. With polls showing environmentalist and anti-vax activist Robert F. Kennedy Jr. polling at 20 percent among Democrats nationally and Biden slumping to 60 percent in his own party, Biden would be in real danger of losing the First in the Nation primary if Kennedy’s name is on the ballot and Biden’s isn’t.
Because New Hampshire is ignoring the calendar just enacted by the DNC — at the behest of Biden — some Democrats say the president can’t put his name on the ballot. Others argue that as the day of the New Hampshire primary approaches (likely near the end of January), the risks to the then 81-year-old incumbent from losing his party’s first primary would be too high, and he will reverse his position.
That’s particularly true given that a majority in his own party doesn’t want Biden to run again.
One solution floated at the national level is for New Hampshire Democrats to skip the official primary and then hold their own party-run contest on the approved date (February 3, three days after South Carolina and the same day as Nevada.) Asked about that idea by Sexton, Buckley dismissed it out of hand.
“It costs well over $10 million to be able to replicate what we do for our elections in New Hampshire, and trying to do it in any other sort of oddball would make it into a farce,” Buckley said.
“And I’d much rather, if I had that money, spend it electing Democrats in November 2024.”
But Buckley’s bold predictions haven’t always come true.
A day before the committee’s vote, Buckley assured WMUR, “We’ve certainly got the commitment of a number of very influential members of the RBC, and we expect the DNC will endorse New Hampshire’s first-in-the-nation primary.”
The next day, every state except Iowa voted to strip Buckley’s party of its first-in-the-nation primary.