While all eyes are on Donald Trump, the favorite to win New Hampshire's Republican primary on Tuesday, President Joe Biden has decided to skip this state, putting his campaign under the radar and at risk of a false start.
New Hampshire traditionally begins its primary election to determine the two candidates who will compete for the White House.
But this time, the incumbent president's name will not appear on ballots for the Democratic primary, due to disagreements over that election calendar.
However, at the initiative of supporters, voters will still write his name on the ballot. By counting these votes, Joe Biden risks finishing third in this northeastern state, behind two other candidates: Democrat Dean Phillips and writer Marianne Williamson, author of books on personal development.
Joe Biden takes the state “for granted (…) He has to campaign in New Hampshire, he has to put himself in front of the voters,” Mr. Phillips said during a recent debate with Ms. Williamson, and Mr. Biden did. Don't share.
“He should be on the ballot in New Hampshire, for heaven’s sake. “He is the president,” he added.
During the 2020 primaries, Joe Biden lost largely in this overwhelmingly white state, then was saved thanks to strong support from African Americans in South Carolina.
Once elected, he asked the Democratic Party leadership to place South Carolina ahead of New Hampshire and Iowa on the calendar, to take advantage of better primary dynamics. But New Hampshire, which is controlled by Republicans and considers being the first state to launch a primary a sacred cow, has adamantly refused.
Local activists, although disappointed and upset that Joe Biden was not voting, decided to tell his supporters that they could still put his name on the ballots.
On Saturday, about twenty of them braved the winter cold in Manchester, the state capital, singing and carrying signs that said: “Ask me if I can write to Joe Biden.”
Candidate and Congressman Dean Phillips came out to offer them coffee.
“We are all frustrated that (Biden) is not on the ballot,” said Kathy Sullivan, 69, a retired lawyer from Manchester.
“But we're putting that aside because it's really important that Joe Biden beats Donald Trump in November.”
Dan Severian, 62 years old and retired, who came from Reading (Massachusetts) with his wife Colleen, criticized Marianne Williamson and Dean Phillips for not supporting Joe Biden's re-election campaign.
I think they should support the party and the outgoing president. Phillips is young. “He can run in 2028. He should have waited his turn.”
Some donors supporting the president fear that putting Joe Biden's name on the ballot would lead to an unnecessary defeat, leading observers to question the number of votes received.
Thus, it is possible to analyze the vote as a measure of the president's popularity, when the result could have simply been ignored otherwise.
Democratic presidents seeking re-election typically get about 80% of the vote in New Hampshire primaries, and party strategists estimate that Joe Biden will need to get about 60% of the vote to avoid humiliation.
“A win is a win, and I believe we can get it,” said New Hampshire Rep. Donna Soucy, a co-chair of the campaign.
“We've worked hard on this effort (to write Biden's name) across the state, and I think today's voters — those of us out here in the cold — are a testament to the enthusiasm for President Joe Biden.”
She acknowledged frustration with Biden's lack of participation, but blamed party officials in Washington, not the president himself.
“Expressing our support in this election is a little more complicated, but we will do it anyway because we are loyal to our president,” she said.
“Total coffee aficionado. Travel buff. Music ninja. Bacon nerd. Beeraholic.”