NASHUA, New Hampshire — President Joe Biden‘s decision to demote Iowa and New Hampshire as the first two nominating contests in the Democratic primary schedule in favor of South Carolina, the state that saved his 2020 presidential campaign, has become a headache for Democratic voters in the Granite State.
New Hampshire Secretary of State David Scanlan defied Biden and the Democratic National Committee’s rules, setting the state’s primary for Tuesday, due to a 1975 law requiring New Hampshire to hold the nation’s first primary. In retaliation, the DNC will not award delegates to the winner, essentially making the primary meaningless.
“No matter what the Democratic National Committee says, it’s our state law,” Democratic state Sen. David Watters told the Washington Examiner. “We’re going to have the first-in-the-nation primary.”
Biden will not appear on the ballot during New Hampshire’s primary Tuesday. But Watters is hoping that Biden will still win the contest due to a write-in campaign he is helping to spearhead.
“This is grassroots, and this is our way of showing the really strong support for the president in the state,” Watters said about the write-in campaign “And I suspect there will be a delegation from New Hampshire at the Democratic National Convention.”
Rep. Dean Phillips (D-MN) and author Marianne Williamson, the two most high-profile Democrats challenging Biden, will appear on the New Hampshire ballot. Phillips has campaigned heavily in New Hampshire throughout his long-shot bid and has claimed that Biden finishing below 60% would be a blow for the president.
“We’re going to see, sadly, an incumbent president who is not electable, and I think that might wake up people from his delusion that he can win,” Phillips said during a Saturday campaign event. “Leadership means meeting, not delegating only to others. Not avoiding debates, not avoiding the cameras, not avoiding the questions, and not avoiding the voters.”
A loss in the Granite State would be unwelcome for the Biden reelection campaign as he battles high disapproval numbers.
As the incumbent, Biden has an advantageous lead over his primary rivals. The president is polling at 68.5% compared to Williamson at 6.4% and Phillips at 3.5%, according to a FiveThirtyEight polling average.
As the incumbent, Biden has an advantageous lead over his primary rivals. The president’s write-in campaign is polling at 58% compared to Phillips at 10% and Williamson at 5%, according to the RealClearPolitics average of polls.
Yet neither the campaign nor New Hampshire’s state Democratic Party is involved in the write-in effort.
But Watters is hoping that Biden will still eke out a victory.
“I like to win,” he said. “This has never been done before, asking people to write in, it’s different. And it’s kind of fun.”
Mark Ferrin, a 73-year-old pastor from Farmington, New Hampshire, told the Washington Examiner that he thinks the write-in campaign will be successful.
“There’ll be enough people who write him in, so I don’t have to worry about it,” Ferrin said.
Ferrin also said he was disappointed that Biden is not on the ballot.
“It probably would have been nice to have him be in New Hampshire,” he added.
Anne Morris, a 63-year-old part-time hospital administrator from Nashua, had less positive thoughts on the Biden efforts.
“I’m not very impressed,” Morris said. “I also think that Dean is right. This absolutely should be a debate. There’s no reason why this shouldn’t be a debate. On both sides, Republican and Democrat. It’s not fair to the public that we don’t have a debate.”
With only a $70,000 budget, the grassroots efforts hope to turn out thousands of Biden supporters. A separate super PAC also is aiding the write-in campaign, which requires primary voters literally to write Biden’s name at the bottom of the ballot.
Roughly 325 people attended an organizing meeting for the group this week, Watters said. In the final week before the primary, the group will have hosted over 50 events. Watters said the campaign will try to have supporters at most of New Hampshire’s 303 polling stations on Election Day.
“We’re kind of focusing on those that produce the most votes,” he said. “We are trying to make sure that we have shifts of people with the write-in Biden sign and then a big poster that’s the sample ballot.”
Big-name Democrats have also appeared at events with the group, including Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ), House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY), Boston Mayor Michelle Wu, Gov. J. B. Pritzker (D-IL), Rep. Ro Khanna (D-CA), and Gov. Maura Healey (D-MA).
“I think it really not only shows the support for for Biden, but I think it shows the support for democracy, and that has felt good,” Watters said about the Democrats who are supporting the campaign.
Yet much work will have to be done to let New Hampshire voters know the write-in campaign is happening. Several voters told the Washington Examiner they were unclear about the efforts.
“I’ll be honest, I don’t even understand it,” said Scott Kepnes, a 60-year-old preschool teacher from Merrimack, New Hampshire. “My wife was asking me, and I’m like, “I don’t know why they’re saying write Biden in,” and so I heard more the past couple of days.”
Although the write-in campaign is unprecedented for New Hampshire, at least one other candidate has had some success with this: Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK).
Murkowski won a 2010 write-in campaign in the general election against Republican and Tea Party favorite Joe Miller after losing the primary.