CONCORD, N.H. – “Dead on arrival.”
Those are the words Republican Gov. Chris Sununu of New Hampshire uses to describe the plan initially approved by the Democratic National Committee to revamp the top of their 2024 presidential nominating calendar.
“It’s an outrageous request to think that the Democrat National Committee is going to dictate our laws and our process, which has been tried and true,” Sununu told Fox News this week when asked about a DNC request that New Hampshire — which for a century’s held the first primary in the White House race — alter its state laws to comply with the proposed new calendar.
The proposal President Biden, which was unveiled last week and quickly cleared the first hurdle when it was overwhelmingly approved last Friday by the DNC’s Rules and Bylaws Committee, moves South Carolina to the lead off position in the Democrats’ primary calendar, on Feb. 3, 2024, with New Hampshire and Nevada holding primaries three days later, followed by Georgia and Michigan.
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It’s a move aimed at making the lead-off contest more representative of a party that’s become much more diverse in recent decades.
Biden’s plan, which the full DNC membership is expected to pass at their winter meeting in early February, is a dramatic shift from the current calendar, which has seen Iowa and New Hampshire for half a century hold the first two lead-off contests in both the Democratic and Republican Party schedules. For years, plenty of Democrats have knocked Iowa and New Hampshire as being unrepresentative of the party as a whole for being largely White with few major urban areas. Nevada and South Carolina — which currently vote third and fourth in the calendar — are much more diverse than either Iowa or New Hampshire.
The DNC is giving the five early voting states in its new calendar until early next month to show that they are moving towards meeting the national party’s new rules — or else they would forfeit their early slots in the schedule. For New Hampshire that means scrapping a state law that protects its cherished first-in-the-nation primary status.
“It’s not happening. It’s not happening at all,” Republican state Senate President Jeb Bradley emphasized. “I think it’s really unfortunate that national Democrats have chosen to undermine New Hampshire’s tradition.”
Bradley pointed to New Hampshire Secretary of State Dave Scanlan, who’s indicated he’ll move up the date of the presidential primary to honor the state law. And in an interview with Fox News, Bradley warned that there could be a negative impact for Democrats at the ballot box in 2024.
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“I think that New Hampshire voters respect our status as first in the nation. So, the fact that the Democratic National Committee is undermining that — I think it sends a pretty clear message to independent voters in New Hampshire ‘we don’t care about you,’” the longtime lawmaker said.
South Carolina, a red state where Black voters play a major role in Democratic primaries, gave Biden his first victory in the 2020 nomination race. After disappointing fourth and fifth place finishes in Iowa and New Hampshire, Biden rebounded with a distant second place finish to Sen. Bernie Sanders in Nevada’s caucuses before his landslide victory in the South Carolina primary propelled him to the Democratic nomination and eventually the White House.
Biden has repeatedly said he intends to run for re-election in 2024 and the new calendar proposed by the president and approved by the DNC panel appears to be another sign that he’ll follow through on those intentions. It would also benefit Biden should he face any potential primary challenges from the left of his party.
Sununu, noting Biden’s likely candidacy in 2024, argued that the DNC’s “catering to the personal whims of a candidate, Joe Biden is a candidate.”
“They’re allowing a candidate to decide where to put the first-in-the-nation primary as personal political payback to his supporters in South Carolina. It’s an atrocious abuse of the process and amazing ignorant of the importance of New Hampshire going first and importance of having a state that actually knows what they’re doing, gets the vote out in the right way, engages with candidates with the right way,” Sununu said.
It’s not just New Hampshire Republicans who are pushing back against the DNC. So are the state’s all-Democrat congressional delegation and state party.
Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, the senior member of the congressional delegation and a former governor, said the DNC’s move “holds no bearing over when we choose our primary date: New Hampshire’s State law stipulates that we will hold the ‘First-in-the-Nation’ primary. That status remains unchanged as we are bound by State statute.”
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And Shaheen added that “we look forward to hosting candidates in New Hampshire for the 2024 presidential primary and showing the country that we should continue to be entrusted with the ‘First-in-the-Nation’ primary that yields timely, reliable results with a process that levels the playing field for all candidates, regardless of clout or background.”
But Sununu, a vocal critic of the state’s Democratic federal delegation, claimed that “clearly, they blew it. The Democrat delegation, they’re in charge of the pitch. Ray Buckley’s in charge of the pitch. Their state committee man and woman are in charge of the pitch. They clearly blew it and they’re very largely responsible for it.”
It’s not just New Hampshire where the DNC’s proposed upending of the calendar is facing pushback.
The Republican National Committee voted earlier this year to make no changes to their current order of Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina and Nevada leading off their schedule. Iowa GOP chair Jeff Kaufmann has threatened to move up the date of the Republican caucuses in retribution to the DNC’s move. And Iowa Democratic Party chair Ross Wilburn pointed out to the DNC that “our state law requires us to hold a caucus before the last Tuesday in February, and before any other contest.”
In Georgia, where Republican Gov. Brian Kemp and a GOP dominated legislature would have to sign off on moving up the date of the state’s Democratic primary, there’s already opposition.
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Deputy Secretary of State Jordan Fuchs said earlier this week that Georgia would likely not change its primary date if it meant holding the Democratic and GOP contests on different dates.
Her boss, Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, said in a CNN interview that “I like the idea that Georgia’s moving up in the rankings because we continue to grow in population.” But he tempered that there needs to be strong support from both Republican and Democratic state lawmakers before there’s any possibility of a date change.