PHILADELPHIA — The Democratic National Committee is leaving New Hampshire Democrats out in the cold at its Winter Meeting this week as it prepares to strip the state of its prized presidential primary status.
Granite State Democrats have vocally protested the DNC’s plan to put South Carolina ahead of New Hampshire on the presidential nominating calendar.
But they were forced to do so at their press conference Friday at a WeWork an icy 13 minute walk from the meeting, since the national party controlled all the ballroom and meeting spaces in the hotel hosting its gathering.
“Thank you for joining us today. We know it was quite chilly getting over here,” said longtime New Hampshire Democratic Party Chair Ray Buckley, referring to the 25 degree weather, which he joked was, “A bit of New Hampshire down here in Philadelphia.”
The DNC is set to ratify Saturday a radically revamped presidential primary calendar for 2024, which President Joe Biden recommended and a party subcommittee overwhelmingly approved last year.
Buckley was flanked by other New Hampshire DNC members and Lis Smith, the well-known Democratic strategist who helped lead Pete Buttigieg’s unexpectedly successful 2020 presidential campaign. She’s now helping New Hampshire Democrats fight what they acknowledged is a losing battle against the DNC.
New Hampshire Democrats say their hands are tied by the law a state law that mandates their primary go first, and a Republican governor who has no interest in changing it.
So the state plans to proceed with an unsanctioned Democratic primary on the same day as the official Republican one, even though it means triggering DNC rules that will strip the state of delegates to the party’s National Convention and punish any candidate who so much as puts their name to the ballot there.
“New Hampshire is going to be first,” Buckley said.
“The reason why you go to New Hampshire is not delegates,” said Smith, explaining that the media coverage and sense of momentum generated by winning the contest is far more important than its small number of delegates.
And Buckley warned that losing the national party’s blessing will hurt Democrats in the battleground state, saying independent voters overwhelmingly support the first-in-the-nation primary.
“If just a couple thousand of them decide not to vote, or to vote for Republicans, that could cost us the presidency, the governorship, or either congressional seat,” he said. “We are an evenly divided state, so anything that pushes one way or another — that has an impact.”
National Democrats — and especially Biden, who is ultimately the one making decisions — are not convinced and have lined up overwhelming support for the new calendar among DNC members.
New Hampshire Democrats don’t even plan on staging much of a protest on Saturday, Buckley said.