The Democratic Party's attempt to make South Carolina's primary the first in the nation could lead to President Biden suffering an embarrassing 2024 campaign setback -- in the form of Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. reeling off back-to-back wins in Iowa and New Hampshire, Axios reports.
In February, the Democratic National Committee announced that, after decades of leading the primary parade, Iowa and New Hampshire would be pushed back in the order, with South Carolina going first on Feb. 3. Under the plan, New Hampshire and Nevada are to host theirs on Feb. 6, followed by Georgia on Feb. 13 and Michigan on Feb. 27.
While Biden and the DNC are enthused about the new pecking order, Iowa and New Hampshire may defy the directive -- and Team Biden has signaled that the president won't put his name on the ballots in those two states if they hold their contests before South Carolina.
New Hampshire law requires the secretary of state to set the primary date at least seven days before any other state. Meanwhile, the Republican Party is using the traditional Iowa-New Hampshire sequence to start their primaries, and Iowa Democrats last month proposed holding their primary on the same date as the GOP.
Even if it happens by a Biden forfeit, Kennedy victories in the first two states to vote could foster voter belief that his renegade campaign has viability heading into subsequent primaries.
Bent on rigging the outcome of the nomination process, the DNC has announced it has no plans for Democratic debates. However, just two months after announcing his candidacy, Kennedy is already garnering the support of 16% of Democrats in the RealClearPolitics average. An April NBC News poll found 51% of Democrats didn't want Biden to run for re-election.
The Biden campaign may welcome an excuse to skip Iowa and New Hampshire. In 2020, Biden finished fourth in Iowa and fifth in New Hampshire before an endorsement from black South Carolina Rep. Jim Clyburn helped Biden revive his near-dead campaign by winning South Carolina.
In New Hampshire, Kennedy has the benefit of proximity to the Kennedy family's native Massachusetts. Also, the state lets independent voters -- who comprise a hefty 40% of the electorate -- vote in either the Democratic or Republican contests. In 2020, they demonstrated a tendency to vote for anti-establishment candidates: An analysis by the National Review's Dan McLaughlin found 56% of Granite State independents voted for anti-establishment populists.
Some Democrats have floated the idea of pursuing write-in campaigns for Biden if his name isn't on the ballots in Iowa and New Hampshire, but that could actually make a bad situation worse by adding credibility to potential Kennedy victories.
The DNC has threatened that states defying the party's chosen sequence will be stripped of their delegates at the national convention, which will be held in Chicago in August 2024. Such a move promises to sow discord and cultivate the kind of progressive discontent that led to depressed Democrat turnout in 2016.
“I think that President Biden is not going to even put his name in Iowa and New Hampshire. So I think he’s not even going to compete,” Kennedy told Michael Smerconish on SiriusXM. “I think that he has never done well in New Hampshire...so I think that he did not want to compete in New Hampshire and he wants to go to a state where they...can control the results more.”