Monday, May 1, 2023

Invisible Primary: Visible -- New Hampshirites Are Not Surprisingly Defending the New Hampshire Primary

Thoughts on the invisible primary and links to the goings on of the moment as 2024 approaches...

First, over at FHQ Plus...
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President Biden announced his reelection bid last week and that has set off an inevitable chain reaction, one that focuses on the president's path to renomination and possible reelection. And the renomination portion leads to the calendar decisions the Democratic National Committee has made for the 2024 cycle. There, the emphasis has once again returned to the potential, if not obstacle, then headache the demotion of the New Hampshire Democratic presidential primary in the calendar order will have on Biden in both phases of the 2024 electoral process win the Granite state. 

Understandably, that has once again brought the defenders of the first-in-the-nation primary in the Granite state back out to "warn" the president (and anyone else) about the mistake Biden is making in not only shunting New Hampshire back in the process, but in possibly keeping his name off the ballot in a likely rogue primary there. Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D) took to the airwaves on Sunday in the midst of the renewed chatter about the DNC-New Hampshire standoff over the primary to discuss the possible negative impacts the president's decisions may have:
“It’s unfortunate, because I think it has an impact [on] the independent voters who are very important in New Hampshire, and who are going to be very important to any reelection of the next president,” Shaheen said. “And it also has an impact on Democrats up and down the ticket.” 
“The fact that we would now discount their [independents'] participation, I think, is unfortunate,” said Shaheen, who is not up for reelection until 2026. “And again, I think it has implications for Democrats in the state — hopefully not for the general election, but we don’t know that yet.”
Independent voters are important in New Hampshire politics. They offer a bit of an unknown in the presidential primary process there as well because registered independents can pick which of the Democratic or Republican primaries they want to participate in. And while the calendar decisions may impact independents in New Hampshire, they are unlikely to be any more or less affected by it -- or activated by it -- than Democrats or Republicans in the Granite state in 2024. All New Hampshirites, regardless of any registration affiliation, are likely to be upset to some degree about the change, but that is less likely to impact the primary than the general election.  

The reason for that has been made clear over the years. Independents tend to go where the action is in the New Hampshire presidential primary. And in 2024, the action will be on the Republican side. Look at 2012. President Barack Obama won around 49,000 votes in winning the New Hampshire primary as an incumbent. That was roughly 80 percent of the vote the 2012 primary. By comparison, John Edwards won around the same number of votes in the 2008 New Hampshire primary, but that was only worth a third place finish at about 16 percent of the vote. That was part of a significant (but typical) drop off in turnout from a 2008 to 2012 when an incumbent president was running largely unopposed. Turnout was back up in 2016 when the Democratic nomination was again active. 

The pattern holds on the Republican side. From competitive 2016 to uncompetitive 2020, Republican turnout dropped by a total approaching 50 percent. 

So, there may be some independents who show up to cast a vote of protest in the likely rogue Democratic primary in New Hampshire next January, but most will be far more likely to venture over into the Republican process instead. And that is a different, albeit not completely unrelated, story from how New Hampshire voters may behave in a general election. But even Shaheen concedes she does not know the impact there. 

None of this is out of the ordinary. New Hampshirites have often turned to blackmail over the years when the first-in-the-nation primary has been threatened. And it has been threatened anew for 2024 and in a different way than it has in the post-reform era. However, independents may be further down the list of blackmail items that can be used, successfully or otherwise, as the standoff with the national party continues. The simple truth of the matter is that New Hampshire was narrowly decided in 2020 and any small change could tip the balance the other way in 2024. That was just as much the case before the calendar decisions were made as it is now that New Hampshire Democrats are scrambling for a way out of the impasse.

Of course, Sen. Tim Scott (R-SC) has been running for 2024 for quite some time because he has been doing the sorts of things that prospective and actual candidates for the White House do for quite some time. That was true before last month when South Carolina's junior senator announced his exploratory committee for the presidency and it will continue to be the case as his major announcement on May 22 approaches: 
“It is time to take the Faith in America tour not just on the road, not just to an exploratory committee,” the South Carolina Republican told the crowd of about 150 people, a comment which received a standing ovation. “It is time to make a final step. We are going to have a major announcement. You are going to want to be there.”
This can be said about Scott thus far: He has done a good job teasing out these various announcements to keep his name in the news.

Vivek Ramaswamy picked up some South Carolina endorsements during his bus tour of the Palmetto state last week, including a pair of state legislators from the Low Country. FITSNews is the only outlet reporting that, but one of the state representatives, Matt Leber, seems to have indirectly confirmed the endorsement by retweeting the story. No, that is hardly a groundswell of support, but the thing worth eyeing here is that Ramaswamy continues to basically build a White House run from scratch. It will be a campaign that builds more from the bottom up rather than the top down as, say, Trump is doing in the endorsement primary. Ramaswamy may or may not catch on in 2023-24, but his is a grassroots build out and state legislative and local endorsements are part of that, a valuable part. He takes the bus tour to New Hampshire this week, where Ramaswamy already counts one fairly big state legislative endorsement from the deputy majority leader of the state house, Fred Doucette.

Harry Enten at CNN picked up on a parallel point to one FHQ made last week. But instead of focusing on the different ways in which similar polling numbers for Biden and Trump can be read differently, he turned toward the similar positioning of Ron DeSantis and Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. And similar though the poll positions of the two may be, how those numbers are being interpreted for both is very different. Good piece from Harry.

On this date... 1976, former Georgia Governor Jimmy Carter and former California Governor Ronald Reagan (R) won big in the Texas primary. Louisiana Democrats caucused as well. 1979, George H.W. Bush announced his bid for the 1980 Republican presidential nomination. 1984, former Vice President Walter Mondale (D) won the Tennessee presidential primary while Jesse Jackson took the primary in the nation's capital.


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