President Joe Biden may have pledged not to campaign in New Hampshire and to stand by the new Democratic primary calendar he pushed through the DNC earlier this year, but not Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. His campaign tells NHJournal he “will be on the ballot in all 50 states” and is planning to return to the Granite State to campaign soon.
Now that South Carolina Democrats have pledged to hold a primary and encourage competition in the Palmetto State, RFK, Jr. also plans to campaign there.
“Mr. Kennedy will actively campaign in South Carolina regardless of when the primary is held,” the campaign said in a statement.
This creates yet another headache for Biden and adds to the challenge he would face if he attempts to skip New Hampshire’s First in the Nation primary.
The Charleston Post and Courier reports Democratic National Committee Chairman Jaime Harrison, former chair of the South Carolina state party, “expects South Carolina will hold its inaugural first-in-the-nation presidential primary on Feb. 3,” and he expects a big win for Biden.
“Our new primary calendar, with South Carolina leading it off, elevates diverse voices, reflects our values, and will strengthen our party,” Harrison told the paper. The state’s new Democratic Party chair, Christale Spain, added the only way the party would cancel its 2024 primary is if Biden is the only candidate who files to run.
That’s not going to happen.
Both Kennedy and self-help guru Marianne Williamson are all-but-certain to appear on the early-state ballots. As a result, hopes have been dashed that South Carolina Democrats would simply skip holding a primary, making Biden’s nomination appear a foregone conclusion. This would also make it easier for Biden to ignore New Hampshire’s contest.
Now, like it or not, Biden will have to campaign in South Carolina, which will highlight that he’s not campaigning in New Hampshire. And the new list of Biden-Harris campaign “prominent voices” supporting the 80-year-old president’s reelection bid doesn’t include a single name from New Hampshire.
Williamson has already made multiple appearances in the Granite State, and RFK, Jr’s campaign tells NHJournal, “Mr. Kennedy will be heading to New Hampshire later this month and in June.”
National polls find about 20 percent of Democratic primary voters support Kennedy, some eight months before the first votes are cast in Iowa and New Hampshire.
UNH political science professor Dante Scala sees a number of risks the RFK candidacy poses to Biden here in the Granite State.
“RFK, Jr. could become the reservoir of anti-Biden sentiment in the Democratic primary electorate, a ‘send a message’ candidate, like Bernie Sanders in 2016 or Eugene McCarthy in 1968.” And Scala added, “We know the anti-vaccine movement is real. And we also know that it has never had a national leader — a face and a name to lead it.
“How will that movement respond? Will it energize and organize?” Scala asked.
While the Democrats’ primary calendar is still in flux, New Hampshire is committed to having its primary a week before any other similar contest. That means the same day as the Republicans, likely on January 23, 2o24. Given that it was Biden pushed the DNC to put the new calendar in place — and to sanction any candidates who appear on the New Hampshire ballot — violating the new rules by campaigning in the Granite State would be politically embarrassing for the incumbent president.
While Kennedy is still viewed as a longshot to take away the nomination from an incumbent Democrat president, Scala says he still has some advantages.
“[State] Sen. Lou D’allesandro (D-Manchester) was right. Kennedy does have name ID without even trying, and he’ll be shameless about spending the family legacy,” Scala said. And, he added, there is the COVID-19 variable.
“Who among us understands post-COVID politics and all its dark corners?” Scala asks.
Kennedy has also staked out some issue positions that could be attractive to Republicans willing to consider backing a Democrat. For example, the border chaos that has plagued the Biden campaign since he took office.
“Mr. Kennedy believes in the necessity of a secure border and has pledged to make it impermeable,” Kennedy’s campaign said. “He sees the current crisis as a grave humanitarian situation and is studying the issue to develop long-term compassionate solutions to ameliorate the root causes of immigration.
“Immigration must happen in an orderly, lawful fashion to protect immigrants from exploitation, to keep out criminal elements, and to protect American workers from downward wage pressure,” they added.
According to one estimate, more than 5.5 million undocumented migrants had crossed the southern border since Biden took office as of last September. That number is above 6 million today, with 83,000 border crossings last week alone. Biden still opposes tougher enforcement of immigration laws, even as new legal documents reveal Customs and Border Patrol “released almost 6,400 migrants from their custody without giving them notices to appear in immigration court or having a way to track them in the US, according to court documents,” Fox News reported.
Will Biden really skip New Hampshire, even as RFK, Jr. campaigns here? And what will local Democrats like Biden ally Sen. Jeanne Shaheen say when Biden is stumping in Charleston and Greenville, S. C. while refusing to stop in Salem or Manchester, N.H.?
South Carolina Democrats are moving ahead with their primary, regardless of the decisions in New Hampshire or Iowa.
“If you’re going to have a primary season, I want him to run where he will win first,” said U.S. Rep. Jim Clyburn (D-Columbia) said of Biden, The Post and Courier reported. “Why would we allow New Hampshire to be first when he finished fifth in New Hampshire?” added Clyburn, who is a national co-chair on Biden’s 2024 reelection campaign.