President Joe Biden announced earlier this year that because New Hampshire’s Democratic primary voters are too White and lack diversity, he was stripping the state of its First in the Nation primary. U.S. Sen. Jeanne Shaheen reacted angrily, saying Biden kept her in the dark about his decision. State party Chairman Ray Buckley claimed the news blindsided him.
It was one of the most humiliating moments for New Hampshire Democrats in decades, personally delivered by Joe Biden.
On Monday, Granite State Democrats formally announced how they are going to respond.
They’re going to bail Biden out.
At least, that’s the plan.
“Today, more than 100 grassroots leaders across New Hampshire are launching www.WriteInBiden.com to encourage New Hampshire voters to write in Joe Biden as our vote on this winter’s 2024 New Hampshire Presidential Primary ballot,” read an email sent to politically active Granite Staters. “And we need your help.”
The WriteInBiden website list includes both Democratic candidates for governor, all 10 state Senate Democrats, and a range of party members from across the ideological spectrum, including moderate 2018 gubernatorial candidate state Sen. Molly Kelly and far-left U.S. Rep. Carol Shea-Porter.
Political operatives said the plan to bail out Biden will need all the help it can get. Getting tens of thousands of people to show up for a write-in candidacy will be expensive and labor-intensive. And the stakes are high. Democratic challenger U.S. Rep. Dean Phillips (D-Minn.) may be an unknown, but he has got millions of dollars to spend and plans 119 town halls across the state.
And — unlike Biden — his name will be on the ballot.
“The DNC didn’t cause this fiasco; they just implemented the president’s desire to stick it to the state that twice rejected him as a primary candidate,” said veteran New Hampshire GOP strategist Jim Merrill. “This high-profile write-in effort raises the stakes for Biden significantly. A win isn’t enough. A sitting president with universal name ID and decades of New Hampshire experience should blow out an unknown Democrat who just showed up five minutes ago.
“But with an unpopular president who chooses to ignore New Hampshire and an unknown candidate who is willing to park here and earn New Hampshire votes every day, maybe the Democratic primary looks a lot more interesting and competitive come January.”
A D.C.-based Democratic operative agrees.
“If Biden loses, it’s a disaster. If Biden wins, but Phillips gets to a ‘Buchanan’ number, it’s a potential disaster,” the Democrat said. “Biden needs to win, to win big, and he has to do it with a write-in campaign that he can’t talk about. Even LBJ couldn’t pull that off.”
In 1968, President Lyndon Johnson won a 48 to 42 percent “victory” over Sen. Eugene McCarthy (D-Minn.), a shockingly close result that inspired Robert F. Kennedy Sr. to enter the primary and LBJ to exit. Like Biden, LBJ was a write-in candidate.
Longtime Democrat Terry Shumaker was one of the anti-war college students who “Got Clean for Gene” — shaved their beards and got haircuts — in 1968 to campaign for McCarthy and against Johnson. He says it was his most fun in a presidential primary.
Today, he is a loyal Biden supporter, and it’s not looking so fun.
“[Biden’s] advisers and the D.N.C. made a big mistake, this was not necessary,” Shumaker told Politico. “There was no reason to displace us.”
Granite State Republicans reply that there is no reason for Democrats to rescue Biden from his blunder.
“New Hampshire Democrats’ write-in campaign is akin to political ‘Stockholm Syndrome,” New Hampshire GOP chair Chris Ager said in a statement. “Democrats support a failed and disrespectful presidency; Granite Staters take the abuse.”
Campaign veterans say that with no other races on the ballot and many Democrats likely assuming Biden is a lock, voter turnout will cost millions of dollars and take thousands of hours. It won’t help when voters realize this expensive effort is only necessary because of Biden’s decision to punish New Hampshire primary voters and reward South Carolina.
As Jonathan Martin reported in Politico Monday morning, “I’m reliably told it was Biden himself who wanted to reorder the party’s nominating calendar to make South Carolina the leadoff state, rewarding the state that revived his 2020 candidacy and elevating the more moderate Black voters who shape Democratic primaries there.”
New Hampshire Democrats appear to be aware this is a problem, and they are working to portray Biden as a victim of faceless party bureaucrats. For example, the new website claims “misguided DNC rules will leave Joe Biden off the primary ballot here in 2024.”
That is both misleading and factually incorrect.
The “misguided DNC rules” were written by Biden himself, and they don’t “leave” him off the ballot. Like Phillips, Biden was free to have his name on the ballot if he chose. Instead, he’s choosing not to campaign at all in New Hampshire while relying on the New Hampshire Democrats he dissed to hand him a big win.
Democrats are also relying on an unusual ally to get their party members to turn out for Biden: Donald Trump.
“We are New Hampshire Democrats and Independents dedicated to protecting our democracy from MAGA extremism,” the website reads, adding Biden is running “in the face of a MAGA Republican movement willing to do anything for power.”
There are no “MAGA Republicans” on the New Hampshire Democratic primary ballot.
Still, the message, “Write in Biden and save America from Trump,” is likely more appealing than “Write in Biden and save him from the mess he made trying to give New Hampshire the shaft.”