(The Center Square) – New Hampshire Democrats are fighting to maintain the state's first-in-the-nation presidential primary status amid new qualifying rules by the national party.
In a letter to the Democratic National Committee, New Hampshire Democratic Party Chairman Ray Buckley said the state party will "absolutely" be applying to hold onto its first-in-the-nation primary status in the 2024 presidential election cycle, and argues that the state should continue to lead the Democratic nominating process.
"For more than 100 years, and long before the DNC regulated the primary calendar, presidential candidates have started their campaigns in New Hampshire," he wrote to DNC Chairman Jaime Harrison. "They have seen up close and personal just how seriously Granite Staters take their role in the first presidential primary in the nation and have come to appreciate the unique role that only New Hampshire can play in the race for the White House."
The DNC's Rules and Bylaws Committee recently voted to upend the traditional order of presidential primary nominations by requiring state parties to apply to host primaries and make the case for why they deserve to be first in line.
Some Democrats have argued that the predominantly white electorates in New Hampshire and Iowa — which holds its presidential caucuses ahead of New Hampshire's primary — aren't representative of Democratic voters or the nation as a whole.
To be sure, New Hampshire’s first-in-the-nation primary gives the 11th-smallest state by population outsize influence on presidential politics. Flashy national campaigns with multimillion-dollar advertising budgets turn into shoe-leather operations where candidates knock on doors, walk through neighborhoods in downtown and press the flesh at local haunts.
In his pitch, Buckley argues that New Hampshire is one of the most accessible states for presidential candidates who can build robust campaigns for less money than in larger states. He said the state's retail politics have helped propel largely unknown Democrats from Jimmy Carter to Barack Obama into the White House.
"In a day and age where campaigns are driven more and more by money and the latest digital trends, New Hampshire is a state where candidates need to speak with voters directly in our biggest cities and our smallest towns," Buckley wrote. "This focus on retail politics gives candidates a chance to test their message and build innovative organizing operations."
Buckley also said that New Hampshire is a "true battleground state" with small towns, racially and ethnically diverse cities "that a candidate for the White House must connect with if they're going to be successful in the general election."
Members of the state's congressional delegation, including Sens. Jeanne Shaheen and Maggie Hassan, also vowed to fight to keep the Granite State's first-in-the-nation primary status.
This isn't the first time that the state has had to defend its pole position in the nation's presidential nominating process.
In 2012, when Nevada and several other states proposed to shift their primaries forward during the contested Republican contest, then-New Hampshire Secretary of State Bill Gardner threatened to schedule the state's primary in December 2011 to prevent it from losing its first-in-the nation status. The proposal by other states eventually fizzled out.
"The Granite State has kicked off the presidential nominating contest since 1920, and it has produced successful nominees for both parties," Buckley wrote to the DNC. "I am confident that the proud tradition of nominating presidents will continue in 2024 and beyond."