New Hampshire’s first-in-the-nation primary in jeopardy

Published: Dec. 2, 2022 at 5:39 PM EST
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CONCORD, N.H. (WCAX) - New Hampshire could lose its coveted first-in-the-nation presidential primary under new rules proposed by President Biden and the Democratic National Committee.

Democrats voted Friday to remove the Iowa caucus as the leadoff state on the presidential nominating calendar and replace it with South Carolina starting in 2024.

The change would also bounce New Hampshire from its first-in-the-nation primary status, and it’s not sitting well with state leaders, including the man tasked with overseeing New Hampshire’s elections.

“It is going to be a fight,” said New Hampshire’s Secretary of State David Scanlan. Pictures of past primaries cover the walls in his office. State law requires it to go first and for the past 100 years, presidential candidates have flocked to the state and Scanlan says 2024 will be no different. “It is not the first time that our first in the nation primary has been challenged and in the past, we have always held our event first.”

However, South Carolina is poised to take over the top spot on the calendar under a plan from President Biden and the Democratic National Committee. Scanlon and other supporters of having New Hampshire retain the first primary spot say any changes would be a blow to the democratic process. “It is an easy state to campaign in, voters are sophisticated, they are not afraid to ask tough questions, and they are really good at whittling the field,” he said.

However, others say South Carolina’s electorate is more diverse and better represents the base of the Democrat Party. And New Hampshire could be penalized for ignoring the new calendar. “You could still have your primary but you won’t have any delegates sitting in the national convention,” said Plymouth State University politics professor John Lappie.

If New Hampshire does end up losing its number-one status, it could also have a huge economic impact. The primary brings in tens of millions of dollars each election cycle. Lappie says candidates would likely campaign in the state less. “If South Carolina is officially voting first with delegates, that could cause New Hampshire to lose attention,” he said.

The party chair in New Hampshire released a statement that says in part, “The DNC did not give New Hampshire the first-in-the-nation primary and it is not theirs to take away. This news is obviously disappointing, but we will be holding our primary first. We have survived past attempts over the decades and we will survive this.”

As for what comes next, Scanlan says his office is simply waiting to see how things play out. He says New Hampshire’s exact primary date will not be announced until the fall of next year.

The debate is only about the Democratic primary. The Republican Party says it intends to continue to have New Hampshire first on its primary calendar.

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