The veteran of numerous presidential campaigns, who asked to remain anonymous to speak more freely, predicted that when it comes to the 2024 Democratic presidential nomination, "there is a huge appetite for anyone but Biden and as soon as it’s tapped into, you’ll see it explode."
With recent news that fringe 2020 Democratic presidential candidate Marianne Williamson is headed to New Hampshire in the coming weeks, and with word this week that environmental lawyer and anti-COVID vaccine crusader Robert F. Kennedy Jr. will hold an event in the state early next month, the possibility of potential primary challenges to Biden is moving a bit closer to reality.
Kennedy, the son of the late Sen. Robert F. Kennedy and the nephew of the late President John F. Kennedy, will hold an event on March 3 at the New Hampshire Institute of Politics, which for nearly a quarter-century’s been a must stop in the Granite State for potential or actual White House contenders.
New Hampshire, which prides itself on its well-informed electorate and its emphasis on small-scale and grassroots retail politics, has for a century held the first primary in the race for the White House. While Republicans are making no changes to their presidential nominating calendar in the 2024 election cycle, the Democratic National Committee (DNC) last week voted overwhelmingly to approve a new top of the calendar pushed by Biden that upends the traditional schedule.
New Hampshire will now vote second in the DNC’s calendar, along with Nevada, three days after South Carolina, under the new schedule.
But Granite State Democrats warn that New Hampshire will still go first — courtesy of a longstanding state law that mandates the leadoff primary position — and that a primary not sanctioned by the DNC, where Biden doesn’t take part, could invite trouble for the president.
"President Biden will not file for election in the New Hampshire primary, which will still go first," longtime New Hampshire Democratic Party chair Ray Buckley emphasized on the eve of the DNC calendar vote. And he warned that "this will set him up, we believe, for an embarrassing situation where the first primary in the country will be won by someone other than the president. This will only fuel chatter of about Democrats divisions."
State Sen. Donna Soucy, the Democratic leader in the state Senate, predicted in an interview Friday on local radio station WFEA that "there will be candidates, without a doubt."
The intra-Democratic Party fight over the calendar has given Republicans in New Hampshire plenty of ammunition.
Republican Gov. Chris Sununu, who’s mulling a 2024 GOP presidential run, has reiterated that "we’re going first no matter what."
"He’s really opened... himself up for challengers," Sununu said of Biden, in a Thursday interview with Politico. "And I firmly believe there will be challengers."
"They’re gonna have to let it play out. But there’s no doubt someone will step in and be a real challenger to Biden, because he tried to move the primary away from [New Hampshire]," Sununu emphasized.
New Hampshire is the state where progressive champion Sen. Bernie Sanders of neighboring Vermont crushed eventual nominee Hillary Clinton in the 2016 Democratic primary. Sanders resounding victory boosted him into a bitter battle with Clinton for the Democratic nomination.
Four years later Sanders narrowly carried New Hampshire again, while Biden came in a very disappointing fifth place in the state’s first-in-the-nation primary. Biden rebounded with a second-place finish in Nevada’s caucuses followed by a landslide victory in the South Carolina primary, which launched him towards winning the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination. Nine months later, Biden carried New Hampshire, a general election battleground state, by a comfortable seven points as he won the White House over then-President Donald Trump.
But former Rep. Paul Hodes, a progressive Democrat who served two-terms in Congress, told Fox News that the upending of the nominating calendar by the DNC "does create the challenge of all kinds of fringe candidates with all kinds of ideas – some good, some bad, often people with no background in government or how government works – entering an unsanctioned primary."
And he predicted that the primary could end becoming "a sort of free for all."