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DNC could vote to change primary order, as New Hampshire vies to keep first-in-the-nation status

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New Hampshire has hosted the first primary in the nation on the road to the presidential nomination for more than 100 years, but Democrats are voting Saturday on whether to change that. 

The Democratic National Committee (DNC) is meeting in Philadelphia to vote on upending the party's presidential nominating calendar, which has not undergone major changes in decades. Under the proposed plan, which is supported by President Joe Biden, South Carolina would become the first state on the presidential primary calendar, followed by New Hampshire and Nevada three days later. The proposal would also move battleground states Georgia and Michigan up in the calendar, while Iowa, the site of chaotic caucuses in 2020, would be pushed further back in the year. 

South Carolina was pivotal for Mr. Biden in 2020. The nomination seemed to be out of his reach, until Rep. Jim Clyburn threw his support to Mr. Biden, and he won the state, reversing his political fortunes and setting him on the path to the nomination. 

"This proposal by President Biden will reflect the strength of America's greatest asset and that is our diversity," said Jaime Harrison, chairman of the Democratic National Committee.

Some Democrats argue that New Hampshire is too small, too rural and not diverse enough to reflect a changing country, after the state has hosted the nation's first primary since 1920 due to a state law. 

But Republican Gov. Chris Sununu of New Hampshire called the proposal an "absolute joke."

"It's not based on anything to ensure that the voters in America will have a better first filter. It's just based on a personal preference of a candidate," Sununu said.

New Hampshire Democrats could still try to hold their primary first, but the national party would almost certainly punish them by taking away all or some of the state's delegates for the Democratic convention, and would discourage Democrats, too, from campaigning in the state prior to the primary.

On Friday, New Hampshire Democratic Party Chair Ray Buckley said while he'll continue to work "in good faith" with the DNC, he emphasized that his state will buck the DNC's calendar and go ahead of South Carolina. 

"The DNC can choose to do whatever they wish to do," Buckley said. "But it seems odd that we would be punished for doing something that is completely out of our control, to punish our candidates and ability to get elected in November of 2024 because the New Hampshire Republicans pick the date of the primary."

The DNC gave both New Hampshire and Georgia until June 3 to figure out how to change their primary dates. 


Changing first-in-the-nation status doesn't sit well with some

The plan to shuffle the order of early-voting primary states isn't popular with some Democrats, like Ray Buckley, New Hampshire's Democratic Party chairman. Buckley said he's not opposed to adding states to the early calendar, but New Hampshire needs to remain first.

In fact, Buckley suggested that should the party vote to put South Carolina first, New Hampshire would ignore the DNC's calendar and go ahead and set its primary ahead of all other states. He argued that Democrats would be unfairly punishing New Hampshire Democrats because "the New Hampshire Republicans pick the date of the primary." New Hampshire's Legislature is controlled by Republicans, and the state has a Republican governor, and it's the state and local government that determine the timing of elections. 

The DNC gave both New Hampshire and Georgia until June 3 to figure out how to change their primary dates. 

Residents like Amanda Wihby, who co-owns the Red Arrow Diner, worries it may impact her business if Democrats go through with a plan to drop the Granite State as their first primary stop.

"Every four years, they descend upon us, and I think a lot of people, customers, would be disappointed if it was taken from us," Wihby said.

Resident Stu Holtshouser of Manchester, New Hampshire, agreed with Wihby's sentiments.

"I like it being first," Holtshouser said. "I think it's good for the state, and I think it is a good reflection of the country."

By Kathryn Watson

Biden tells DNC they have some "unfinished business" ahead

In his address to the DNC winter meeting Friday night, President Biden told enthusiastic supporters they are "just getting started" on what they're set out to do. 

"So, let me ask a simple question: Are you with me?" he asked, to uproarious cheers. 

The president told attendees they have some "unfinished business" on their agenda. That list includes ensuring the cost of insulin is $35 a month, passing paid family leave, restoring the expanded child tax credit, banning assault weapons, codifying Roe and passing the John Lewis Voting Rights Act, he said. 

Mr. Biden sought to contrast his administration's record with House Republicans, and blasted what he calls the "MAGA" wing of the caucus. 

"These aren't conservatives," he said. "They're disruptive people. They intend to destroy the progress we've made." 

The president said little about Saturday's vote on the presidential primary calendar. 

By Kathryn Watson
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