New Hampshire Democrats Give Biden the Finger

AP Photo/Evan Vucci

New Hampshire Democrats have a message for Presidentish Joe Biden, delivered figuratively with a flinty New England middle-finger salute to his plan to upend the traditional primary schedule.

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For more than a century, New Hampshire voters have enjoyed the privilege of holding the first-in-the-nation presidential primary election, in recent decades quick on the heels of the Iowa caucuses. There's even a state law mandating that New Hampshire hold its primary seven days before any other state.

Biden, however, tossed tradition aside — and gave New Hampshire's primary law the finger — last year, when he "recommended" that South Carolina go first. Under Biden's plan, which was quickly endorsed by the DNC, South Carolina would hold its primary on Feb. 6. That vote would be followed quickly one week later by New Hampshire and Nevada.

Maybe this sounds like a whole bunch of pointless infighting, but there's a method to Biden's disdain: Democrat reliance on racial politics.

When Biden made his proposed primary schedule changes, he wrote, "For decades, Black voters in particular have been the backbone of the Democratic Party but have been pushed to the back of the early primary process." Moving South Carolina up and New Hampshire back would change that math. (And moving Nevada up, which is whiter and less black than the rest of the nation? -shrug emoji-.)

But the Democratic National Committee is a jealous national committee. If New Hampshire goes ahead with moving ahead, "it faces punishment from the DNC, including but not limited to the potential loss of delegates to the Democratic convention," according to NBC News.

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The friction goes back to the 2020 primary race — Biden's third attempt at earning his party's nod — when South Carolina voters salvaged Biden's struggling campaign. 

After placing an embarrassing fourth in Iowa and fifth in New Hampshire, Biden needed a big win in South Carolina or watch his last-ever presidential race circle the drain.

"At President Joe Biden’s lowest moment in the 2020 campaign," NBC News reported last year, "South Carolina Rep. Jim Clyburn came to him with a suggestion: He should pledge to put the first Black woman on the Supreme Court."

Clyburn made the kind of suggestion any powerful pol would be familiar with: "Do as I suggest and my people will turn out for you. If you don't..." Well, you know the rest. Biden made the pledge, and Clyburn made the endorsement.

South Carolina black voters turned out in droves for Biden thanks to Clyburn's endorsement. 

Later, Biden promised to name a black woman as his running mate, and there's zero doubt in my mind that was also part of his backroom deal with Clyburn. As was Biden's own "suggestion" to the DNC that Clyburn's South Carolina upend New Hampshire's longstanding first-in-the-nation primary.

Clyburn made a president and nearly unmade a primary tradition with his one suggestion — but he delivered the votes Biden needed when he most desperately needed them.

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It may well be that New Hampshire doesn't care whether it loses delegates to the DNC because there's something bigger at stake for this tiny state. New Hampshire has long loomed large in the process, not because it has many delegates to award, but because it serves as a retail-politics-level gauge of a candidate's support. 

A presidential candidate can shake hands with practically every voter in New Hampshire — without having to spend much money. Larger states like South Carolina are industrial-scale — campaigns are won on the pricey TV airwaves. Longshot candidates — say, for instance, the ones who try to unseat incumbent presidents — stand a much better chance in a smaller state than in a larger one.

New Hampshire doesn't want to give any of that up, and who could blame it?

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