Biden’s New Hampshire mess
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‘CLEANUP IN AISLE NEW HAMPSHIRE’ — Does the name Keith Judd ring a bell? Probably not.
He’s the convicted felon who, while incarcerated at a federal prison in Texas, managed to win 10 counties and 41 percent of the 2012 West Virginia Democratic primary vote against the incumbent president of the United States.
For a fleeting moment, his out-of-nowhere performance against Barack Obama stunned the political world. Several news cycles were occupied with stories trying to understand who he was, and why voters from the president’s own party were so mad. Republicans reveled in the election results, using the opportunity to highlight party messaging against Obama’s so-called War on Coal.
Obama was never in danger of losing anywhere during the entire primary season. And Judd’s performance was just an aberration, nothing more than a minor pothole on his road to reelection. Still, it represented an embarrassing episode, a reminder that even within a president’s own party, one aggrieved state can still wreak havoc.
That’s what makes New Hampshire worth watching now that President Joe Biden has announced his candidacy for a second term. Biden angered the state’s top Democrats by pushing changes to the 2024 nominating calendar that eliminated New Hampshire’s prized first-in-the-nation primary status and put South Carolina in the lead-off spot.
But New Hampshire is still likely to go first, thanks to a state law that requires the primary to take place one week before any others. The Democratic National Committee gave New Hampshire until June to change the date, but that’s a no-go with the Republicans who control the governor’s office and state legislature.
And so Biden faces a quandary of his own design. If he participates in the primary of a state that’s poised to go rogue, he risks violating party rules — which would likely impose sanctions on candidates or states in violation. (A Biden campaign aide said the president and his team would abide by any sanctions imposed by the DNC, if that were to happen.)
But if Biden doesn’t appear on the ballot, he could cede the unofficial first contest to Robert F. Kennedy Jr. and self-help guru Marianne Williamson.
Rep. Annie Kuster (D-N.H.) has privately urged Biden twice now to compete in New Hampshire. “He should be on the ballot in New Hampshire. He’ll win handily,” she said in an interview this week. And if Biden is not on the ballot, there’s an alternative option: a write-in campaign, which is what Kuster and other top Democrats expect will happen if the president chooses to formally skip New Hampshire.
Either way, losing a primary that doesn’t actually count for anything isn’t a problem. Nor are Kennedy and Williamson a threat to the president’s renomination — not by any stretch.
But the optics surrounding the potential train wreck would be a messy distraction, at precisely the wrong time — the official outset of the presidential primary season. Comparisons would be drawn to two of the most famous and consequential New Hampshire primary challenges of yesteryear — Democrat Eugene McCarthy in 1968 and Republican Pat Buchanan in 1992 — even if the circumstances next year aren’t remotely similar.
“In terms of materially impacting his reelection, it’s probably a minimal effect. But New Hampshire is still an important swing state in the general election that you can’t take for granted and you want positive movement,” said Chris Moyer, a veteran of Sen. Cory Booker’s (D-N.J.) 2020 presidential campaign in New Hampshire. “You don’t want any negatives along the way as he looks ahead to 2024.”
The president’s history in New Hampshire is already checkered. In his unsuccessful 2008 presidential bid, Biden was polling at a mere 3% in the state before he dropped out of the race one week before the primary. In 2020, he finished an anemic 5th there, nearly 50,000 votes behind his Transportation Secretary, Pete Buttigieg, who finished in 2nd place behind Sen. Bernie Sanders.
The most recent polling out of the state suggests Biden still has much work to do. According to an April University of New Hampshire Granite State Poll, 50 percent of likely Democratic primary voters say Biden definitely or probably should not run for president in 2024. Just 43% think he definitely or probably should run.
The New Hampshire primary situation, veteran Democratic strategist Mary Anne Marsh told Nightly, is “an unnecessary disadvantage.”
“It won’t be a death knell,” she said. “But it does make it tougher in New Hampshire — it’ll be like ‘cleanup in aisle New Hampshire’ for the general election.”
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What'd I Miss?
— North Carolina Supreme Court clears way for partisan gerrymandering: The North Carolina Supreme Court has overturned its own past ruling that said partisan gerrymandering is illegal, clearing the way for Republicans there to redraw the state’s congressional lines in a way that heavily favors the GOP. The ruling allows North Carolina legislators to aggressively gerrymander the congressional map, which is currently represented by seven Democrats and seven Republicans. Now Republicans in Raleigh could re-create the map they initially passed last cycle which a Democratic-controlled state Supreme Court struck down, netting as many as four seats.
— Government report shows steep decline in FBI’s ‘backdoor searches’ on Americans: The Biden administration has a new argument in its uphill battle to sell Congress on renewing a controversial electronic surveillance statute: it can rein in abuses of the program itself. The number of times FBI personnel sought information on Americans within a repository of data collected under Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act fell more than 95 percent in 2022 from 2021, according to a much anticipated transparency report on U.S. spying released today.
— Brutal Democratic primary could pit ex-lawmaker against gov’s sister: Former New York Rep. Mondaire Jones is gearing up for a potential run for his old House seat, which could tee up a ugly primary with the sister of Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer in must-win territory for Democrats. While the ex-congressman is publicly saying he’s undecided, four people familiar with his plans say he’s prepping a run for his former New York seat. That’ll likely pit him against Liz Whitmer Gereghty, who has filed federal campaign paperwork and is slated to officially launch her bid soon.
Nightly Road to 2024
INSURRECTION-FRIENDLY — At a campaign stop in New Hampshire on Thursday, former President Donald Trump embraced a woman named Micki Larson-Olson who was convicted of defying police orders on the U.S. Capitol grounds on Jan. 6, 2021. “Listen, you just hang in there,” Trump told Larson-Olson. “You guys are going to be okay.” He then signed the backpack that she brought with her to the Capitol on Jan. 6.
GETTING COZY — Biden plans to convene over 150 of his largest political donors in Washington over the weekend, according to CNN. At the reception, which will take place this evening, Biden will lay out the beginnings of his re-election strategy in the hopes that big donors who have backed him in the past are willing to do so yet again. Top Biden donors who will back him again told CNN that they’ve been encouraged by the response from fellow contributors in the days after his announcement.
PROPPING UP PENCE — A super PAC backing an expected Mike Pence presidential bid is planning to launch in mid-May, while his campaign is ramping up talks with consultants and activists in early nominating states, according to a senior adviser to the former vice president. A second person familiar with the Pence camp’s internal deliberations confirmed the PAC’s timeline to POLITICO, saying it would be “up and running shortly.” The formation of the PAC would serve as the prelude to an official campaign that is betting heavily on performing well in Iowa.
TRUMP’S PATH — While conventional political wisdom suggests that Biden has an advantage in a potential rematch with Trump, Ruy Teixeira lays out the opposite case in his political and social analysis blog The Liberal Patriot. Biden, he argues, could lose in 2024, for reasons including that his polling remains very weak, abortion might not be as impactful on the 2024 race as it was in 2022 and the president is having trouble with working class voters, while Trump projects significant strength there.
AROUND THE WORLD
ENDORSED — A Kurdish-Left alliance including pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) in Turkey today called on its supporters to vote for President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s main opponent in next month’s presidential election, writes Nicolas Camut.
The opposition candidate, Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu, is supported by a wide-ranging coalition from across the political spectrum, as the election is widely expected to be the most hotly contested in Erdoğan’s 20-year rule.
The vote of the Kurdish population, which makes up around a fifth of Turkey’s 85-million population, will be a decisive factor in the presidential race, as Kılıçdaroğlu and Erdoğan as the most recent polling compiled by POLITICO shows the two candidates in a statistical dead heat.
The left-leaning HDP party is the largest pro-Kurdish political force, representing around two-thirds of the Kurdish vote. The party’s leader Selahattin Demirtaş is currently serving a prison sentence on terrorism charges.
The amount of money that Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis has on hand in various accounts, according to public filings and people who represent the entities. Without even launching an official campaign account, DeSantis’ financial advantage looms over the Republican field: Most contenders have cash balances on orders of magnitude lower than his. Even the super PAC backing Trump, MAGA Inc., reported $55 million on hand as of the end of 2022 — a hefty sum, but far short of what’s in the bank for DeSantis. The former president has also raised $18 million through his campaign since launching in November.
GAME OVER — Magnus Carlsen — by most measures chess’ greatest player of all time — is abdicating his throne. As the World Chess Championship takes place in Kazakhstan this week, Carlsen has decided not to participate, meaning that chess will crown a new champion. He’s doing so because, according to him, he’s “not motivated to play another match,” referring to the way he would defend his title, by playing a series of games against one challenger over the course of weeks. The even stranger this is, Carlsen expects to continue to play chess competitively. So, as the chess world crowns a new champion, Carlsen’s shadow will continue to loom large. David Hill reports for The Ringer.
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