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Biden, New Hampshire Democrats betting on a low-key write-in campaign

Despite President Joe Biden being the incumbent, challengers are launching extremely unlikely bids for the Democratic Party nomination.
Posted at 5:39 PM, Jan 21, 2024

A Minnesota congressman and a self-help author both hope voters will upset the Democratic Apple Cart in the New Hampshire primary.

"I define my candidacy as one for president of the United States of America. Doing what one does when you run for president, which is show up, meet people, answer their questions, do town halls," said Democratic presidential candidate Rep. Dean Phillips.

“70% of Democrats have been saying for months that they want to hear from other voices than Joe Biden,” said Democratic presidential candidate Marianne Williamson.

The third candidate, the incumbent president, is not on the ballot.

That’s because President Joe Biden pushed through Democratic rule changes that prioritized voters of color, deemphasizing New Hampshire's primary. That angered party officials in the state, who forged ahead with a primary anyway. But nationally, this vote will be akin to a beauty contest, according to University of New Hampshire political analyst Dante Scala, because no delegates will be awarded.

“Marianne Williamson is a bit beyond me. Dean Phillips is here for the megaphone that New Hampshire provides. He is here to try to deliver a message to his party, with which he's basically burning his bridges as we speak. But he was done in Congress,” said Scala.

Regardless, Phillips and Williamson see an opportunity in New Hampshire and are zeroing in on that in their campaign, also raising the president’s age and electibility as issues—two things the president’s team prefers to avoid.

How long will this year's primary season go?
A public witness, loads a test ballot into a vote counting machine while testing machines before the New Hampshire primary.

How long will this year's primary season go?

Republican presidential candidates are campaigning in New Hampshire before Tuesday's primary, with 22 delegates at stake.


“The system is set up that you have to either have huge amounts of money or access to those with huge amounts of money to get anywhere near the pinnacles of power,” said Williamson.

 “And the truth is this: Joe Biden is making a horrific error right now in staying around a little too long... And that's my case to all of you,” said Phillips.

While the primary won’t likely affect the numbers in the Democratic presidential contest, anything less than a strong finish for the incumbent could hurt. So that’s why President Biden's allies have mounted a write-in campaign.

“It might be cold outside, but New Hampshire, Boston, and all of New England are warming up for President Biden. And we're going to make sure that we get this done in November. And this is a very important milestone on Tuesday,” said Michelle Wu, Mayor of Boston and Biden Supporter.

Granite State Democratic Party officials appear confident President Biden would prevail anyway, but these supporters don’t want to leave anything to chance.

“The fate of our democracy is on the ballot, and so, you know, regardless of the decisions that people outside of New Hampshire are making, people here in New Hampshire are going to be voting on Tuesday,” said Lebanon City Councilor Karen Liot Hill, a supporter of President Bidden.

Scala adds that Democrats vote on issues like abortion and not delegate rules.

“When New Hampshire's talking about social issues like abortion, rule of thumb unifies Democrats, divides Republicans,” said Scala.

In his effort to unseat the president for the Democratic nomination, Congressman Phillips has spent almost $2.5 million on television and digital ads in New Hampshire, according to media tracking firm AdImpact. He even ran a commercial likening President Biden to Bigfoot, as in, it’s hard to spot him in New Hampshire.

Phillips even got an oblique mention from Republican frontrunner Donald Trump on Saturday night, urging New Hampshire Democrats to vote for Phillips to send a message to President Biden that "you don't abandon us."

But Phillips was watching too, and he responded to Trump with this comment: “Be careful what you wish for, Donny."