As the Democratic National Committee prepared to cast its votes to strip New Hampshire of its first-in-the-nation presidential primary status, it received a personal letter from a member of the party’s most legendary political family.
Robert F. Kennedy, Jr.
“My uncle believed that New Hampshire earned the right to host the nation’s first primary because it played such an important role in giving the American people the right to nominate their candidates in the first place,” President John F. Kennedy’s nephew wrote. “For more than a century, New Hampshire has been fertile ground for the strongest Democratic candidates. Now, more than ever, it is important that the Democratic Party have a primary campaign that produces our party’s most competitive candidate.”
Kennedy’s letter was ignored by the committee, which overwhelmingly voted to push the Granite State out of its place in line. But it was noted by New Hampshire political insiders. Why was Bobby Kennedy’s son getting involved in the state’s 2024 primary fight?
They may have got their answer on Thursday when Neil Levesque of the New Hampshire Institute of Politics announced via Twitter that Kennedy will be the featured speaker at an Institute event next month.
“This platform is the premier stop for prospective presidential candidates,” Levesque noted.
Is that why Kennedy is coming to the Granite State? There are many venues where, as a celebrity in the anti-vaccination and environmental activism communities (not to mention the fact that he is a Kennedy), RFK, Jr. could draw a crowd.
Why come to the NHIOP where so many politicians — from Marianne Williamson to Donald Trump — have begun their campaigns in the state’s pivotal primary? And if he does decide to run, how would Democrats at the state and national level respond?
The problem for the DNC, as Granite Staters in both parties have been warning for weeks, is that New Hampshire’s high-profile primary didn’t lose its luster just became the national committee refuses to sanction it.
On WFEA radio with Drew Cline Friday morning, state Sen. Donna Soucy (D-Manchester) predicted “there will be candidates, without a doubt.”
“You think no Democrat is going to step up and come to New Hampshire and get all that free press, all that earned media, all that excitement? Of course, they are,” Sununu told Politico on Thursday.
And state Democratic Party chairman Ray Buckley has warned that Biden’s refusal to appear on the state’s primary ballot was fraught with danger.
“Under New Hampshire law, anyone with $1,500 can put their name on the ballot,” Buckley told the Politico Deep Dive podcast. “And can you imagine? Some mechanic from Arkansas or Oklahoma who sent a $1,500 check to the New Hampshire Secretary of State wins the New Hampshire primary.
“All of a sudden we’re going to be calling this guy in Oklahoma and saying “OK, who are your friends in New Hampshire we’re supposed to qualify as delegates? [Biden’s decision to kill the FITN primary] just makes such a mess unnecessarily,” Buckley said.
That’s the DNC problem. The problem for local Democrats like Sens. Jeanne Shaheen and Maggie Hassan, and the various party committees across the state, is how to treat Kennedy if he becomes a candidate, given his fringe anti-vaccination views.
Both Instagram and Facebook have suspended Kennedy in the past for repeatedly violating rules prohibiting misinformation about COVID-19. His family has publicly denounced his extreme views, and he has been forced to apologize for comparing vaccine mandates to Nazi Germany and the Holocaust.
Kennedy is leading “a propaganda movement,” and “absolutely a racist operation” that is particularly dangerous to the Black community, UCLA medical professor Dr. Richard Allen Williams of the Minority Health Institute told the Associated Press.
“He’s really the ringleader of the misinformation campaign,” Williams said.
Would RFK, Jr. be welcome at Democratic committee meetings or fundraisers? Would local candidates appear on stage with him?
While Buckley and the NHDP declined to answer the question, state Sen. Lou D’Allesandro said “Kennedy will be welcomed in New Hampshire. The Kennedy family is part of New Hampshire political folklore. But I want to hear what his message is.”
One person welcoming Kennedy to campaign in the Democratic primary is the newly elected state Republican Party chairman, Chris Ager.
“RFK, Jr’s upcoming visit is proof positive the Democrats are smart enough to realize any potential presidential run must start in the Granite State,” Ager said. “President Biden continues to cower from New Hampshire voters, which presents an opportunity for other Democrats to seize the moment and pull off the first upset over an incumbent here since 1952.
“It’s our hope that other prominent Democrats seize the field Biden has surrendered,” Ager added.