Wednesday, January 18, 2023

How Do New Hampshirites Really Feel About 2024 and the Presidential Primary Calendar?

FHQ will admit it. We almost took the bait. 


Another group of New Hampshire Democrats are voicing their displeasure with President Biden's proposed shake up to the 2024 presidential primary calendar. And once again, it looks like a doubling -- or tripling -- down on the same arguments that Democrats in the Granite state have used in defense of their first-in-the-nation presidential primary since the DNC Rules and Bylaws Committee (DNCRBC) adopted the proposed calendar in December. And these Democrats are equally as justified in making that defense directly to the president as others have been over the last month or more. The calendar decision has not been finalized and will not be until the February DNC winter meeting at the earliest. 

But the national media keeps treating this as a national story. And it is! In that national story, New Hampshire Democrats keep digging in, seemingly making the situation worse with national Democrats. In that game it would behoove New Hampshire Democrats to quietly defer to the state law that requires the secretary of state in the Granite state to schedule the presidential primary there at least seven days before any other similar contest. That decision, after all, is out of their hands. So, too, are the changes to state law that the DNCRBC has requested New Hampshire Democrats push for with Republicans in control of the levers of power in the state. 

What continues to be in the control of New Hampshire Democrats is how they push for those changes. Elected Democrats in the New Hampshire General Court can propose legislation to change the date of the primary and to add no-excuse absentee voting. One Democrat has already proposed an expansion of absentee voting conditions (even if those changes likely fall short of what national Democrats have in mind).

Granted, the incentives are just not there to push for changes to the presidential primary date or to propose some alternative method of selecting and allocating national convention delegates. Those are both well within the power of New Hampshire Democrats to do, but to cede any ground -- any -- on first-in-the-nation status is to undermine the whole institution. And Democrats in the Granite state are not going to do that, especially before the decision has been finalized at the national level. 

So we are all left with this constant back and forth of bad optics for New Hampshire Democrats in the national media. A decision still has not been made and the vacuum keeps getting filled by the constant, yet natural, drip of New Hampshire Democrats lobbying the president or the DNCRBC in the lead up to when the calendar decision is to be made.

But rather than continue on that feedback loop where a new communication from Concord to Washington begets yet another national story about New Hampshire Democrats digging their hole even deeper with national Democrats, the focus should perhaps be elsewhere. 

Why is it that New Hampshire Democrats are doing this? Yes, yes. Defense of the presidential primary. Everyone gets that. But why are they doing this in this way when continued defiance only hurts them with the national party -- when it only seemingly brings the state party inescapably closer to sanctions from the national party? 

Much of this has to do with the fact that New Hampshire Democrats have two audiences to which they have to play. Every facet of the above story is about how the decisions state Democrats are making are playing with the national party audience (whether the national party as an organization or Democrats nationally). But how do these decisions play at home? In New Hampshire? 

No, FHQ is not talking about the DNC proposal. The vocalized response thus far seems to be against the changes called for the in the calendar plan adopted by the DNCRBC (but not yet finalized by the DNC). But how do New Hampshirites feel about the defense the Democratic Party in the Granite state is waging? 

Do they feel it is adequate? 

Do they feel it is even necessary? 

This strikes FHQ as a missing link in all the reporting on the New Hampshire Democratic Party response to the DNCRBC decision. The public reaction to the DNCRBC decision has been covered but feelings about the NHDP response have not. And that is important. It is important because NHDP continues to raise the negative ramifications of the national-level process and decision on electoral prospects for Democrats up and down the ballot in the Granite state. 

If New Hampshire Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents in the electorate are of the opinion that the NHDP response to the national party is adequate, then it may not hurt Democrats in races other than the presidential race in 2024 or only affect them at the margins. [Yes, those margins can matter.] 

If those same folks in New Hampshire feel like the response from NHDP is unnecessary -- that New Hampshire is going to do what New Hampshire is going to do and go first anyway -- then it may not hurt Democrats at all in 2024. Republicans in the state are just screaming into the wind to no avail when raising the issue as a potential wedge. 

But we do not know those things. They are not part of the national narrative on this story. [And the New Hampshire press has incentives to tell this story as a defense of the primary and that alone.] So this story keeps getting told the same way every time it is revealed that some New Hampshire Democrat or group of them is making another pitch to some national Democrat or the DNCRBC. 

And it is not that FHQ is demanding a poll be commissioned. We do not even really have this information anecdotally. We are just being made to take a variety of New Hampshire Democrats' words for it that this calendar move -- whether New Hampshire Democrats defy it or not -- will be injurious to Democrats in 2024. 

Will it? There are ways to answer that and no one is really getting at them. least not yet.

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