Tuesday, July 18, 2023

New Hampshire blinders in the Democratic nomination race

Invisible Primary: Visible -- Thoughts on the invisible primary and links to the goings on of the moment as 2024 approaches...

First, over at FHQ Plus...
  • Michigan Republicans had everything in place with respect to their 2024 delegate selection plan. ...until they didn't. The plan adopted by the state party last month hit a snag with the RNC and will require a tweak. But the state party has options. All the details at FHQ Plus.
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In Invisible Primary: Visible today...
Al Hunt had an eye roll-worthy opinion piece up at The Messenger over the weekend and it was the 315 billionth one since December to inform readers about how the Democrats' Biden-led calendar changes for 2024 have "backfired, spectacularly" in New Hampshire. And again, this was not revelatory. There has been a steady stream of stories and opinion pieces in this genre that have followed the same basic formula: accentuate the negative in the only story outside of the president's age to move the needle in a nomination race that looks like a yawner, only gather quotes from folks inside of and tied to the state of New Hampshire and assume the worst for the president. 

Look, if folks have caught even a whiff of one of these Biden/New Hampshire stories since late last year, then they will likely understand that upsetting folks in a battleground state may have implications for the president in the general election next year. That has been and remains clear

However, Hunt, like many before him, has chosen the New Hampshire-centric path that leads to hypothetical chaos (or some lesser form of uncertainty in the 2024 Democratic nomination race). And that path always seems to place some variety of blinders on those who spin these yarns of incumbent woe. 

Folks miss that New Hampshire Democrats are not without options in this saga. Like other state parties, New Hampshire's Democrats can opt out of a state-run presidential primary in favor of some party-run contest to allocate national convention delegates. The Democratic Party in the Granite state has the very same free association rights under the first amendment that all parties across the country do regardless of any state law on the subject. Perhaps, then, the state party could diffuse the situation by going along with the calendar rules supported by folks from 55 of 57 states and territories and adopted by the Democratic National Committee for the 2024 cycle. [It honestly is like that Politico piece from May was never reported. It certainly was not internalized by very many.]

But even if New Hampshire Democrats continue along the route of defiance, does that necessarily mean that the Biden campaign will topple like a house of cards on the evening of (probably) January 23? Is a non-loss by the president in an unsanctioned primary really the death knell for Biden in 2024? It could be. But it could also very well be that the South Carolina primary comes along eleven days later on February 3 and starts a string of (actual delegate-allocating) victories for the president, things become boring and attention goes where it most always does when an incumbent is seeking renomination: to the other party's active contest. But, of course, Hunt did not reckon with that possibility. 

Neither did he consider the long-term implications of New Hampshire Democrats' defiance in the short term. Again, what if Robert F. Kennedy Jr. or Marianne Williamson wins a New Hampshire primary, the ballot of which the president is not on? That is not embarrassing for Biden. That is embarrassing for New Hampshire Democrats. The state party would lose face and set itself back even further for future discussions of the calendar for 2028, a cycle that will actually matter on the Democratic side. It is shaping up to be competitive. 

Iowa Democrats still have a chance to mess this up, but this is what separates them from New Hampshire Democrats in this calendar kerfuffle. Iowa Democrats are seemingly playing the long game. If they go along with the 2024 calendar rules and manage to pull off a successful mail-in presidential preference vote, then the party will have a leg to stand on in pitching a return to the early calendar for the Hawkeye state in 2028. They may be rejected again, but that is still a firmer foundation from which to argue than "we defied the national party the whole way in 2024 and some conspiracy theorist won our meaningless primary." The membership of the DNC Rules and Bylaws Committee may change substantially between now and 2026 when the calendar decisions are made for 2028, but unless the entire committee is made of DNC members from New Hampshire, then Granite state Democrats are very unlikely to find a receptive audience for their early calendar pitch. 

But Hunt does not consider that either. And it is understandable. It is not a flashy story at the moment (if it ever is for more than just FHQ and, like, seven other people). But at some point, Hunt and others will get beyond this initial set of questions about the Biden/New Hampshire situation and dig a little deeper. One can only hope.

This addendum from Seth Masket to the most recent wave in his survey of Republican county party chairs includes a graphic that is just fascinating to look at. It charts the percentage of county party chairs considering various candidates against the percentage who do not want a particular candidate nominated in 2024. As he notes, there are caveats, but it does give a sense of the direction of movement in the race. And Tim Scott noticeably moved in a positive direction. The junior senator from South Carolina saw his consideration numbers go up and his against nomination numbers trail off. Neat graphic. Seth continues to do solid work over at Tusk. 

From around the invisible primary...
  • In the staff primary, the DeSantis campaign trimmed its payroll over the weekend, cutting loose a dozen staffers. That drew parallels to Jeb Bush and Scott Walker and others who have busted out of the gates with hype to spare only to find themselves in a similar position: not meeting expectations (that they did not set), scaling back only to scare skittish donors which leads to further scaling back. Wash, rinse, repeat: doom loop. [Look, it is another troubling sign in a series of them for DeSantis and company in recent days. It may or may not be premature to write the obituaries of the Florida governor's campaign. But the simple truth of the matter is that DeSantis remains well positioned to do well in the 2024 race. [Well may mean something other than winning the nomination.] The governor has raised a lot of money -- with some caveats -- has the (endorsement) backing of a fair number of elected officials and has experienced staff in the broader campaign orbit. On those measures, DeSantis is well ahead of every other nomination aspirant but one.]
  • In the money primary, Mike Pence and Chris Christie turned in FEC reports that fell below $2 million. For what it is worth, both entered the race for the Republican nomination just last month. 
  • Wall Street donors are opening up their checkbooks for Trump alternatives, but that money is going to multiple candidates. 
  • The chatter may be there, but Georgia Governor Brian Kemp is not running for president. ...again
  • DeSantis has been in the Palmetto state the last two days and Chris Christie will make his first stop in South Carolina on Thursday, July 21.

On this date...
...in 1984, former Vice President Walter Mondale is formally nominated in a roll call vote at the Democratic National Convention in San Francisco.

...in 1988, the Democratic National Convention kicked off in Atlanta.


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