Reacting to the news from the DNC on the new primary schedule for the ’08 election, New Hampshire officials “quickly served notice that they are considering flouting the party’s rules by holding an earlier primary than the one authorized by the Democratic National Committee yesterday.”
The Boston Globe reports that ‘The First In The Nation’ state declared that “they might schedule voting for as early as late 2007.” Clearly New Hampshire is more than a little ticked off…
“This is irrelevant to New Hampshire,” said Kathy Sullivan, chairwoman of the New Hampshire Democratic Party, after losing her effort to stop the national party’s move. “New Hampshire will do whatever New Hampshire is going to do. We’re not going to capitulate to some party-establishment insiders in Washington.”
New Hampshire state law requires that its primary election be held at least one week before any “similar contest,” and the law gives wide discretion to the secretary of state on how to interpret that provision.
The state has respected the historical precedent of the Iowa caucuses, which have long been held before the New Hampshire vote.
“Chairman Howard Dean’s not going to pick the date of the New Hampshire primary,” said William M. Gardner, New Hampshire’s secretary of state. “I’m going to follow state law. . . . That’s what I’ve done since 1976, and I expect to do it the same way this time.”
Gardner said his decision probably won’t be made until late 2007, because he has to wait for a range of other states to schedule their contests before setting New Hampshire’s date. Gardner and others in New Hampshire have expressed concern that the Nevada caucuses could be de facto primaries, depending on how they will be conducted.
Topping off the new primary schedule, “as a deterrent against New Hampshire or any other state that seeks to circumvent the DNC’s schedule, the party approved a measure that would punish candidates who conduct any campaign activity in a state that violates the party’s calendar.”
Such candidates would be ineligible to receive any convention delegates from the state in question, said Jim Roosevelt of Massachusetts, chairman of the DNC’s Rules and Bylaws Committee. “Candidates have a responsibility to cooperate and work within the process adopted by this Democratic National Committee,” he said.
Katy Sullivan said that “denying delegates to candidates is meaningless, because candidates in modern presidential elections are far more concerned with showing strength in caucuses and primaries than with gathering delegates to the Democratic National Convention.”
In 2004, New Hampshire sent fewer than 30 delegates to the convention out of more than 4,000 total voting delegates.
Indeed, Governor John Lynch, Democrat of New Hampshire, announced after the DNC’s vote that 10 leading Democratic presidential contenders have assured him in writing that they will campaign in New Hampshire regardless of when the primaries are held.
That list included Senator John F. Kerry of Massachusetts, who won the 2004 New Hampshire primary en route to the Democratic presidential nomination.
“John Kerry has been clear and consistent in his support for the New Hampshire primary, and that hasn’t changed with today’s developments,” said Amy Brundage, a Kerry spokeswoman.
Opponents of the DNC’s plan feel that the strategy could backfire, and make it “more likely that a nominee will be chosen by the end of January.”
Holding the first four contests within a 15-day span will make it impossible for candidates to truly connect with voters in any of the states and will make it more difficult for a candidate to bounce back from an early setback, Sullivan said.
“I think it’s very bad for the party,” she said. “It’s Democrats focusing on process, and not on the real issues that matter to the American people.”
UPDATE: AP News reports the 10 leading Democratic presidential contenders who have assured NH Gov. Lynch that they campaign in New Hampshire regardless of when the primaries are held include: “Iowa Governor Tom Vilsack, New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson, former Virginia Governor Mark Warner and Senators Evan Bayh, John Kerry, Chris Dodd, Russ Feingold, John Edwards and Joe Biden. Former General Wesley Clark also promised to campaign here.”