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Democrats organize Biden write-in campaign in New Hampshire

SCOTT DETROW, HOST:

President Biden's decision to not run in this Tuesday's New Hampshire primary and New Hampshire's commitment to honor the state law that requires it to vote first has shaped, maybe even warped, the 2024 Democratic primary there. It's also prompted some Democrats to mount a write-in campaign on the president's behalf, something that hasn't been seen in decades. Josh Rogers of New Hampshire Public Radio reports.

JOSH ROGERS, BYLINE: There are moments when this Democratic primary can feel almost normal, like when Massachusetts Governor Maura Healey visited Democrats in Concord for a pre-primary pep talk. Her message was straightforward - run up the vote total for Joe Biden.

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MAURA HEALEY: Let's have an overwhelming showing like never seen before and let that send a signal across the country because people pay attention to New Hampshire.

ROGERS: But President Biden himself isn't paying attention. He declined to even put his name on the ballot here when New Hampshire refused to follow the DNC calendar he proposed that puts South Carolina at the head of the 2024 Democratic nominating queue. That move was a gut punch to Democrats here. It also created an opening for Democrats, mounting long shot challenges to Biden.

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DEAN PHILLIPS: Joe Biden should have been right here with us today.

MARIANNE WILLIAMSON: I agree with that.

PHILLIPS: He is taking the Granite State for granted.

ROGERS: That was Minnesota Congressman Dean Phillips and author Marianne Williamson debating in Manchester, but the barbs on this front aren't all heading the president's way. The DNC wrote to Democrats here this month to stress the January 23 primary is, quote, "meaningless" as far as choosing a nominee, right as New Hampshire Democrats who support Biden are going all out to boost his fortunes here, as in this TV ad paid for by a write-in Biden super PAC.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #1: Voting for Biden is easy. Start at the bottom of the ballot. Fill in the oval for write-in.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #2: And write in Joe Biden.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #1: Joe Biden. Joe Biden. It's all on the line.

ROGERS: A separate write-in Biden entity is meanwhile focusing on face-to-face outreach, Zoom meetups and deploying volunteers to reach Democrats wherever they congregate.

MAURA WILLING: I will do whatever I can because I'm a true Democrat.

ROGERS: Maura Willing of Concord was putting the arm on attendees at a state Democratic Party fundraiser. Willing backed Elizabeth Warren over Biden in the 2020 primary but says her view of Biden has since changed.

HEALEY: I mean, I remember at the time thinking, oh, what a sweet old man.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #3: I know.

HEALEY: And now he's a good president, and I don't have a problem with him not thinking we're the most important thing on the planet. But as a New Hampshire voter, I want to show him that we've got his back.

ROGERS: New Hampshire Democrats may. Recent polling shows plenty of Democratic primary voters here do plan to write in Biden, but some have other ideas. George Bruno, a former state Democratic Party chairman, decided to register as an independent to vote against Donald Trump in the Republican primary. Here in New Hampshire, independents can vote in the primary of their choosing. Bruno thinks Biden's been fine as president, but...

GEORGE BRUNO: I never thought of him as a two-term, eight-year president, and I was kind of hoping that there would be more competition for the nomination this year. I regret that there isn't.

ROGERS: Write-in organizers, meanwhile, think a strong showing here for Biden will help make the case that New Hampshire deserves to return to the front of the DNC's nominating calendar come 2028. But for right now, Concord lobbyist Jim Demers hopes the write-in effort can give Democrats generally something to build on after the primary.

JIM DEMERS: I think this effort really does lay the foundation because it's getting people engaged. It's, you know, organizing people. And I think it will all be helpful when the November election comes about.

ROGERS: And that's something pretty much every New Hampshire Democrat, whether they backed Biden's write-in or not, will tell you they'd welcome. For NPR News, I'm Josh Rogers in Concord. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Josh Rogers | New Hampshire Public Radio

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