2024 Election /

RFK Jr. Courts New Hampshire Voters Frustrated with the DNC's Primary Changes

The DNC complied with a request from Biden to make South Carolina the first state to hold a primary during the 2024 election

Democratic presidential hopeful Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. is focusing his attention on voters in New Hampshire who feel insulted by the Democratic National Committee’s decision not to honor the state’s traditional first-in-the-nation primary.

The DNC formally voted to hold its first presidential primary of 2024 in South Carolina following a request from President Joe Biden, who said the move would “ensure that voters of color have a voice in choosing our nominees much earlier in the process and throughout the entire early window.”

“Our early states must reflect the overall diversity of our party and our nation – economically, geographically, and demographically,” Biden wrote in a letter to the committee in December. “This means more diverse states earlier in the process and more diversity in the overall mix of early states.”

In early June, Kennedy predicted Biden would not make an effort to win either the New Hampshire primary or the Iowa caucus. 

“My path through the Democratic primary system, I have to win the primaries,” the environmental lawyer told Michael Smerconish during an interview on Sirius XM Radio. “I think that President Biden is not going to even put his name in Iowa and New Hampshire. … I think that he has never done well in New Hampshire, and I think he came in fifth in New Hampshire the last time. That’s my memory. … So I think that he did not want to compete in New Hampshire and he wants to go to a state where they … can control the results more.”

Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders won the Democratic primary in New Hampshire in 2020 with current Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg taking second place. Biden placed fifth in New Hampshire – days after placing fourth in Iowa where he also trailed Sanders and Buttigieg. 

Biden won New Hampshire on Election Day 2020, with almost 53% to former President Donald Trump’s 45.5%.

The DNC’s decision – at Biden’s behest – to alter the primary schedule has created new hostility between national party leadership and New Hampshire Democrats. State Democrats have warned against allowing South Carolina to go first could allow Republicans to “out-organize” ahead of the general election.

“While we share your desire to elevate more diverse voices in the process, we believe that the proposed schedule could wreak havoc on Democrats up and down the ticket in New Hampshire and unnecessarily jeopardize four critical electoral votes in your re-election campaign,” a group of New Hampshire Democrats wrote in a letter to the DNC in January. “If the DNC and your campaign withhold resources from New Hampshire or wait to begin building an organization until after the primary, it will greatly hinder our efforts to help you build a general election campaign in the state and it will allow the Republicans to out-organize us up and down the ballot.”

Kennedy’s campaign is keenly aware of the tension between national and local factions of the Democratic Party and has focused campaign efforts in New Hampshire accordingly.

“It was President Biden’s decision to deprive New Hampshire of its historic ‘First in the Nation Primary’ status,” Dennis Kucinich, Kennedy’s campaign manager, told The Hill on June 19. “Our decision is to respect the people of New Hampshire.”

Kennedy stressed New Hampshire’s importance while speaking to the State Senate on June 1, stressing the importance of having “a real democracy and a democratic election in New Hampshire.”

“There’s so many Americans who believe that the system now is rigged, the economic system, but also the political system, that the elections are fixed,” he said. “And we ought to be, the Democratic Party particularly, ought to be making this election a template for democracy to our country and to the rest of the world.”

“It is more than a tradition,” stated Kennedy. “New Hampshire plays a critical role in vetting candidates for the rest of the country.”

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