Biden is wielding the DNC's power to crush a potential primary challenge in 2024

There's no doubt the Democratic National Committee will do the president's bidding. But it's not good politics

By Norman Solomon

Contributing Writer

Published February 3, 2023 12:01PM (EST)

U.S. President Joe Biden (Kevin Dietsch/Getty Images)
U.S. President Joe Biden (Kevin Dietsch/Getty Images)

The Democratic National Committee has rolled out the blue carpet for Joe Biden at its winter meeting now underway in Philadelphia. Biden's decision to give a speech there Friday was based on the certainty that he would be greeted with fervent adulation, just as he feels sure he can count on the DNC to rubber-stamp his manipulation of next year's presidential primaries. Meanwhile, party officials lip-sync enthusiasm for a Biden '24 campaign. But if Biden were truly confident that Democratic voters want him to be the nominee next year, he wouldn't have intervened in the DNC's scheduling of early primaries.

New polling underscores why Biden is so eager to bump New Hampshire from the first-in-the-nation spot it has held for more than 100 years. In the Granite State, "two-thirds of likely Democratic primary voters don't want President Joe Biden to seek re-election," the UNH Survey Center found. "Biden is statistically tied with several 2020 rivals, including Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg, Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren and Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, all of whom are more personally popular than Biden among likely Democratic primary voters in New Hampshire."

Dismal as Biden's showing was in the new poll, it was a step up from his actual vote total in New Hampshire's 2020 primary, when he came in fifth with 8 percent of the vote. No wonder Biden doesn't want the state to go first and potentially set primary dominoes falling against him.

Keen to reduce the chances of a major primary challenge next year, Biden sent a letter to the DNC in early December insisting on a new schedule — demoting New Hampshire to the second position alongside Nevada, while giving the leadoff slot to South Carolina. That means Democratic energy and funds will be squandered in that deep-red state, which is about as likely to give its electoral votes to the 2024 Democratic ticket as Ron DeSantis is to donate all the money in his campaign treasury to the Movement for Black Lives. 

Why is a deep-red state with the lowest rate of union membership in the country being placed first in the primary calendar? Look to Biden's 2020 campaign for the answer.

But South Carolina, the state with the lowest rate of union membership in the country, does possess one singular virtue, from the president's point of view: It rescued his electoral hopes with its 2020 primary, sending Biden on his way to the Democratic nomination. As the Associated Press explained last week, Biden is "seeking to reward South Carolina, where nearly 27 percent of the population is Black, after a decisive win there revived his 2020 presidential campaign following losses it suffered in Iowa, New Hampshire and Nevada."

The president's rationalization for putting South Carolina first is diversity. Yet the neighboring purple state of Georgia, which has an activist Democratic base, is more racially diverse — and is also a crucial swing state, where the party's general-election prospects would likely benefit from hosting the first-in-the-nation presidential primary. 

Biden's intervention has created a long-term political mess for Democrats in New Hampshire, where he's now less popular than ever after undermining the state's long-cherished first-primary status. Even New Hampshire's normally compliant Democratic senators and representatives in Congress have denounced the move. Biden's maneuver has undoubtedly boosted the chances that the Democratic ticket will lose the state's four electoral votes next year. 

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But Biden having his way with the Democratic National Committee is a slam dunk because he supplies the ball, hires the referees, owns the nets and controls the concession stands. While cowed DNC members dribble at his behest, substantial concerns will echo outside the range of officials' whistles. 

As a Don't Run Joe full-page ad in The Hill newspaper pointed out last week (full disclosure: I helped write it), "There are ample indications that having Joe Biden at the top of ballots across the country in autumn 2024 would bring enormous political vulnerabilities for the ticket and for down-ballot races."

But so far, like the Democrats in Congress, DNC members have indicated they feel much more concern about avoiding the ire of the Biden White House than about avoiding the grim potential outcome of a Biden '24 campaign. By the time the DNC adjourns on Saturday, news reports will be filled with on-the-record statements from members lauding Biden's leadership with next year's elections on the horizon. Conformity prevails.

But warning signs are everywhere. Among the latest are results of a YouGov poll released days ago: "Just 34 percent of Americans describe Biden as honest and trustworthy — a new low for his presidency. That's an 8-point drop from when this question was last asked in December 2022, prior to the public revelation that classified documents had been found in Biden's possession."

This is the electoral horse on which Democrats are supposed to ride into battle against the extremist Republican Party next year. The national Democratic Party is locked into operating at the whim of a president now believed to be "honest and trustworthy" by only one-third of U.S. adults.

How all this will play out at the DNC meeting is no mystery. Yet many members surely know that Biden is likely to be a weak candidate if he goes ahead with his proclaimed plans to run for re-election. Democrats' hope, as usual, is that the GOP will defeat itself once again — an extremist party in disarray, driving away moderate voters. But it would be irresponsible to gamble on such a scenario by rolling the dice on Joe Biden.

By Norman Solomon

Norman Solomon is co-founder of RootsAction and founding director of the Institute for Public Accuracy. He is the author of many books, including "War Made Easy: How Presidents and Pundits Keep Spinning Us to Death." His latest book, "War Made Invisible: How America Hides the Human Toll of Its Military Machine," was published in June 2023.

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Commentary Democratic National Committee Democrats Elections Joe Biden New Hampshire South Carolina