As New Hampshire residents prepare to vote in Tuesday’s primary election, some may wonder why President Joe Biden’s name will not be on the ballot.
The absence of the Biden-Harris ticket is a result of a standoff between the Democratic National Committee and New Hampshire officials after the national party moved to designate South Carolina as the first primary state for the Democratic presidential contest.
New Hampshire previously held the first-in-the-nation primary for over a century, even solidifying its status in state law in 1975. So when national Democrats decided to change the first primary state as recommended by Biden, New Hampshire officials scoffed at the decision and bucked Democratic Party leadership by deciding not to change its state law that mandates the first-in-the-nation status.
The choice to name South Carolina as the new first primary state for the 2024 Democratic presidential calendar results from Biden wanting to center Black voters in the Palmetto State who were consequential to his 2020 primary victory.
Four years ago, after performing poorly in the Iowa caucus and New Hampshire and Nevada primaries, Biden saw an unlikely comeback when he overwhelmingly won in South Carolina, largely due to the state’s large Black voting population and a critical endorsement of longtime Rep. Jim Clyburn, D-S.C. That win caused several moderate Democrats to drop out of the race and endorse Biden ahead of Super Tuesday.
“By the time the primary got to South Carolina … 99% of Black folks had no say whatsoever, in terms of determining the most powerful person on the face of the planet,” DNC Chairman Jaime Harrison said in a previous interview with theGrio about the presidential primary calendar before 2024.
Black voters now have a “seat at the table,” said Harrison, who credited the historic moment to Biden’s “visionary leadership.”
“The state where 40% of enslaved people came through the Port of Charleston, the state where 90% of African Americans in this country can find one ancestor from South Carolina, that state will be the very first state to determine the most powerful person on the face of this planet,” he continued. “That’s a big deal for the African-American community, and I’m so proud to be the chair to get that ushered in.”
Clyburn, now a close Biden confidant after his game-changing endorsement of Biden in 2020, said South Carolina’s position as the first primary state “means that the Democratic Party has recognized that this country is changing.”
“It’s important to him to demonstrate to the African-American voters in South Carolina that he respects them as part of this party,” Clyburn said of Biden. He told theGrio, “Their influence should be applied early in the process and not wait for momentum to build somewhere else and put them out of reach.”
The South Carolina Democratic primary will be held on Feb. 3. In the meantime, all eyes will be on the results in New Hampshire, where, despite no official delegates being awarded in the Democratic contest, New Hampshire residents will cast their ballots without Biden’s name as a result of the first-primary fallout.
Instead, voters can vote among 21 registered candidates in New Hampshire, including Rep. Dean Phillips, D-Minn., and author and spiritual guru Marianne Williamson, both Democratic presidential candidates, or write in an alternative candidate.
Democrats are hoping a grassroots campaign to get Democratic voters to write in Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris will be enough to ensure he has a clear victory as the incumbent president despite not registering to be on the ballot.
There’s also an activist-led campaign pushing New Hampshire voters to write in “ceasefire” as a message to the president and their opposition to the Biden administration’s stance in the Israel-Hamas war in the Middle East.
Party leaders have been intentionally quiet about the primary conundrum. But inner Democratic circles admit that Phillips or Williamson besting the president in New Hampshire – albeit in name only – would not be good optics, particularly since the president continues to struggle in national polls and in a hypothetical matchup against his likely Republican opponent, former President Donald Trump.
Rep. Ro Khanna, D-Calif., traveled to New Hampshire to campaign for the Biden write-in effort, urging Democratic voters to show their support.
“It’s a hard thing to win in a write-in campaign,” Khanna said, according to NPR. The national progressive leader praised Biden’s record in office, saying, “This president’s economic visions are connecting. This president is inspiring the nation.”
A Democratic source told ABC, “Given the difficulty and mechanics of a write-in, if he gets over 65 (%), that’s a resounding victory.” However, the source added, “And if he falls below 50, then I think he’s in Lyndon Johnson territory, and it’s a problem.”
Gerren Keith Gaynor is a White House Correspondent and the Managing Editor of Politics at theGrio. He is based in Washington, D.C.
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