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John Kerry Defends NH Primary

by Pamela Leavey

The NH Union Leader reports that John Kerry “yesterday firmly opposed the national Democratic Party’s plan to dilute the New Hampshire first-in-the-nation primary’s traditional strong impact on Presidential politics.”

The Democratic National Committee should place no nominating caucuses between Iowa’s leadoff caucus and the primary in 2008, Kerry told the New Hampshire Union Leader. He said the early nomination calendar does not need to be fixed because it isn’t broken.

Tomorrow’s New Hampshire Sunday News opinion page will publish a commentary by Kerry that says:

“I have consistently supported Iowa’s and New Hampshire’s first-in-the-nation status for as long as I have been involved in national politics. That’s why I am not in favor of the Democratic National Committee’s current plan to place a caucus event between Iowa and New Hampshire, nor am I in favor of placing a primary election during the seven days that immediately follow the New Hampshire primary.”

Kerry added in an interview that he has “weighed in nationally with people on that position.”

Kerry’s comments on the NH Pimary put him out in forefront of defending the NH Primary. The Union Leader notes that “most potential candidates have hedged when asked how they feel about the plan’s provision to place an additional caucus or two between Iowa and New Hampshire.” It is th eDNC that is forumlating the plan to change the primary schedule.

Some DNC members have said New Hampshire and Iowa do not deserve to have such important roles in the nominating process because they lack racial and ethnic diversity. Some have hinted that siding with New Hampshire equates to opposing more involvement for minorities in the nominating process.

“I absolutely disagree with that,” Kerry said. “That’s a distortion, and it’s kind of a twisted argument that is unbecoming of the Democratic Party.”

He said such logic suggests “that everyone in New Hampshire and Iowa is incapable of being sensitive about those issues. They’re not, and I can attest to that.”

Kerry’s position puts him at odds with the calendar shakeup’s chief proponent, DNC Chairman Howard Dean, who opposed Kerry for the 2004 nomination.

Kerry dismissed the difference of opinion.

“It’s my position,” he said. “And my position is my position.”

Kerry is scheduled to return to the state tomorrow to appear at a fundraiser for state Senate Democrats at the Manchester home of Alderman Mark Roy.

When last in the state in March, Kerry was quoted as saying he supported the state’s first primary, but, when pressed by reporters, said that if the DNC wants “to put something in between (Iowa and New Hampshire), that’s fine by me.”

Yesterday, he clarified, “What I said was that if they do it, you have to live with it. But the point is, I don’t support it.”

He stopped short of promising to boycott any new caucus placed ahead of New Hampshire, however, saying, “We’ll confront those issues when we get to them.”

Kerry, who won the New Hampshire primary in 2004 and carried the state in the general election, said he will decide later this year whether to run again in 2008.

The DNC’s Rules and ByLaws Committee is pushing a plan to place one or two caucuses from more ethnically, racially and economically diverse states between Iowa’s caucus and New Hampshire’s primary. Its plan would also put one or two primaries from more diverse states immediately after the New Hampshire primary.

The rules committee is expected to finalize its plan during the summer and submit it to the full DNC for ratification, probably in the fall.

The plan was designed by a DNC advisory commission, which found last year that Iowa and New Hampshire “are not fully reflective of the Democratic electorate or the national electorate generally,” and, specifically, “do not represent the racial and ethnic diversity of the party or the nation.”

The commission recommended that the additional early states be chosen by the rules committee based on “racial and ethnic diversity; regional diversity; and economic diversity including union density.”

The commission said the changes were necessary to produce “the best and strongest Democratic Presidential nominee.”

Kerry rejected that argument, saying “there is nothing to suggest” these changes would alter the course of a general election. He said that in 2004, he received “10 million more votes than Bill Clinton did in 1996” and would have won the Presidency “had it not been for 60,000 votes in Ohio.

“This is the kind of wish you hear expressed after there is a close election loss,” Kerry said.

In New Orleans on Thursday, the rules committee heard presentations by officials of seven states and the District of Columbia vying for the new caucus positions before New Hampshire and six states seeking new primary slots directly after New Hampshire.

New Hampshire Democrats, including Gov. John Lynch, strongly oppose the plan. And the state’s top election official, Secretary of State William Gardner, has promised several times to schedule the 2008 primary as early as necessary to keep its tradition intact, as he says he is authorized to do under state law.

But Kerry hopes to avert a confrontation between New Hampshire and the DNC.

“I am going to weigh in with people at the DNC,” he said. “Listen, if you’re serious about something and your position is your position, then there is not a half-way about it.

“If they start cramming (caucuses and primaries) in there, it’s harder for people to get places, see people and be seen by people, and it’s harder for a candidate to break out, in my judgment.”

Look for Kerry’s OP/ED on Sunday.

2 Responses to “John Kerry Defends NH Primary”

  1. I don’t agree or disagree, but where does that put the south in all of this?

    The reason why I ask is because I remember the complaints from the 2003-04 primaries from minorities about Iowa and NH.

    (Tavis Smiley was one of them saying that these two states going first meant we didn’t have a say in choosing the nominee).

    I know Kerry won all the south except for S. Carolina and OK, but people felt slighted that they didn’t know who he was until the debates, and wondered what was Iowa thinking in choosing him as the nominee instead of Dean (who the CBC liked), Clark or Edwards. (I knew, but a lot of others didn’t).

    I don’t know what Iowa and NH population is/was, but I hope Kerry and the DNC continue to focus on diversity. The Democrats can’t win without the minority votes.

  2. I just don’t get why these primaries are affecting the outcome because they don’t have racial diversity.

    How does that stop the voters in other states from finding candidates they support and getting them votes?

    Partly, my problem is the implication that somehow we have not been nominating the best of the candidates. I think we have had the best candidates and the GOP has had a really good system of defrauding the American voters.

    I wish they would focus on the idea that if people want other candidates, they need to get more involved in the party. Not just voting, or letting the people who go to the caucuses decide. Not waiting to give financial support. The campaign starts in NH and Iowa, if you aren’t paying attention by then, don’t get upset because the voters there were. The CBC might have preferred Dean, the rest of the minority groups get to make up their minds just as any of us who live outside the beltway do.

    I remember getting on the web in January to check out JK and the other candidates. It didn’t take long to figure it out. It was a huge relief when he started winning.

    I found Michael Dukakis by going to the Dem Caucus in ’88. Got his position papers and have described myself as a ‘Dukakis Democrat’ ever since. (The “Reagan Democrats” had been a big talking point for 8 years).

    The problem is to get more people involved in the early stages. Part of that is to understand that when people start out, they aren’t ready to join the campaign. They want information about the candidate and to be able to ask questions about it. With the level of technology today, it would be very easy to have video of the NH and Iowa meetings with the candidates. The speeches and the questions asked could provide a lot of information to anyone, minority or majority.

    It may be that we need both. I think some of this tinkering with the whole election process has weakened it more than helped.