Granite Staters who want to understand how New Hampshire Democrats lost their ‘First in the Nation’ primary status would do well to spend 52 minutes listening to state party chair Ray Buckley’s podcast interview with Politico’s Ryan Lizza.
It’s a fascinating conversation that will enlighten — or perhaps “confuse” is a better word — New Hampshire news junkies. It’s certainly an unfiltered look into the mind of one of the most influential Democrats in the state.
For example, when Lizza noted that Joe Biden’s “last big comeback was because [New Hampshire Democrats] rejected him,” Buckley insisted he was wrong. Granite State primary voters didn’t reject Biden in 2020 – they loved him.
“He was beloved by the supporters of all of the candidates,” Buckley said. “When he would have fewer people at our convention or our dinners, he still got the largest applause because people really respected him. They had affection for him. It’s not that we said, ‘Ugh — not Joe Biden.’ It was instead, ‘We love Joe Biden, and maybe he’s the nominee, but we want to send a message that, hey, we think it’s really amazing that this mid-size city gay mayor is running for president.”
Then Buckley offered a novel view of how elections work. “I don’t know of a single person that voted for somebody else other than Joe Biden, because they didn’t want Joe Biden as the nominee.”
Biden came in fifth.
“I covered that primary very closely,” Lizza replied. “And whether you’re right or wrong about that, that is not the spirit with which Joe Biden and his campaign interpreted his defeat there in New Hampshire.”
Which may explain why Team Biden has no plans to step foot in New Hampshire or “set up any kind of campaign” here until after the primary, a fact Buckley revealed during the podcast.
Buckley claimed the DNC wants to take away the state’s FITN primary because New Hampshire has a history of “tripping up” incumbent presidents, though that hasn’t happened to an incumbent Democrat since LBJ in 1968. (Apparently the DNC is “mad that we tripped up [Ed] Muskie,” too, Buckley said.)
He also repeated the dubious argument that the Granite State’s four electoral votes will be at risk in 2024 if Biden kills the primary because New Hampshire “really is a purple state.” Since 1992, Democrats are 7-1 in the presidential race. Since 2012, they’re 14-1 in federal House and Senate races.
Buckley also offered (unintentional) support for GOP efforts to raise the bar to get on the New Hampshire ballot. Asked about Biden skipping the New Hampshire primary altogether, Buckley pointed out the state’s low barrier to entry could leave Democrats with egg on their face.
Because while Biden’s name may not be on the ballot, “New Hampshire law is anyone with $1,500 can put their name on the ballot. And can you imagine? Some mechanic from Arkansas or Oklahoma that sent a $1,500 check to the New Hampshire secretary of state wins the New Hampshire primary? They’re awarded the delegates?” Buckley said. “We all of a sudden are going to call this guy in Oklahoma going, okay, who are your friends in New Hampshire that I’m supposed to qualify as delegates?”
But perhaps the most shocking claim Buckley made is that he and Democratic leaders like Sen. Jeanne Shaheen “had no idea” the state’s prized primary status was in danger until just hours before its demise. Is it really possible Buckley and Co. knew less about what was happening to the primary than we did?
In April 2022, NHJournal ran an article headlined “No, NH Democrats, All is Not Well With the FITN Primary.” Nearly a year earlier, June 2021, we reported “Shaheen Quiet on Her Party’s Push to Take Away the FITN Primary.” The word in political circles in the summer was that the best New Hampshire could hope for was to go first in a tie with Nevada on the same day. When the DNC decided to keep the news under wraps until after the November election, it was a clear sign to everyone that the New Hampshire primary’s FITN fate was sealed.
Well, everyone except Ray Buckley and the state’s Democratic leadership.
Was it naivete? Incompetence? Laziness or arrogance? Or, as NHJournal has long argued, the inevitable outcome of Granite State Democrats allowing the “New Hampshire’s too White” argument to go uncontested for so long in a party in the throes of identity politics?
If you have a clue about what’s really going on, please share it with Chairman Buckley. He sure could use one.