Wednesday, November 15, 2023

There is a central tension point in the New Hampshire presidential primary situation, but this still isn't it.

Updated (2:15pm, Wednesday, November 15):

Original post:
It is primary date announcement day in New Hampshire.

Later today, Secretary of State David Scanlan will follow his statutorily-defined role and officially schedule next year's presidential presidential primary in the Granite state. It will answer the question of when the contest will occur on the 2024 presidential primary calendar, but that action will do little to change what has been clear for some time: New Hampshire will have an early contest and it will conflict with Democratic National Committee (DNC) rules for this cycle. 

But again, that has been clear for a while now. Republicans control the levers of power in the state and balked at making any changes to business as usual in terms of how the primary date gets decided every four years. That left in place a law that requires Secretary Scanlan to schedule the primary at least seven days before any other similar election. And Scanlan has maintained for nearly a year now that he intended to follow state law. Unless he takes issue with something in the Iowa Republican Party plans for 2024, then the primary will most likely land on January 23. [In none of Scanlan's comments since Iowa's Republican Party scheduled the caucuses there has he indicated that there is anything problematic.]

None of what will happen today, much less much of what has happened (or not happened) in New Hampshire state government this year has much of anything to do with the DNC calendar changes for the 2024 cycle. Well, they have not had much to do with it for months anyway

That is not where the tension is. That is not where the tension has been. But that did not stop NPR from pointing the finger in the wrong direction in a story about the announcement today. No, instead Josh Rogers gives us New Hampshire is expected to set a primary date that will buck Biden's preference.

Just to reiterate: All of that -- New Hampshire Secretary of State Scanlan not going along with Biden and the DNC's calendar design for 2024 -- has been a known known for most of 2023. And that has not been where the tension has been in this first-in-the-nation ordeal. Instead, that tension lies where it has been: in an intra-party dispute on the Democratic side between the national party and the New Hampshire Democratic Party. 

Look, FHQ realizes that New Hampshire Democrats are not going to budge on this. They just aren't. But the decision makers in the state party have and have had the power to defuse this situation all along. All they had to do -- all they have to do -- is plan for a party-run process that complies with national party rules and not go along with a rogue primary and primary date. Yes, that far easier said than done. There are political pressures that those same decision makers face from the rank-and-file members of the state party. And that is all well and good.

However, that is where the tension is in all of this. It is not and has not been between the DNC and Scanlan or Biden and Scanlan. And stories that are inevitably going to pursue that angle in the wake of the secretary's decision today are barking up the wrong tree. They just are. Today's announcement is meaningful in that it will answer the question of when the primary will be. It is an early contest in the process and that is important. 

But disputes with the DNC? That is all about the New Hampshire Democratic Party opting into a contest that the secretary of state sets, not the secretary himself or the action he is on the verge of taking. And the NPR piece is another in a long line of them that fails to note that. 

This is a fact that will become more and more prominent in the context of the Democratic calendar standoff as it will now move into the consideration of penalties phase. And the DNC Rules and Bylaws Committee has already given strong indications about where that is headed

Over at FHQ Plus...

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