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US President Joe Biden | Credits: Reuters
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Democrats navigate write-in challenge in New Hampshire primary

United States: Democrats are attempting to temper expectations for US President Joe Biden in next week’s Democratic primary election in New Hampshire as supporters scurry to generate write-in votes for him because his name is not on the ballot.

Biden’s Political Power at Stake

The January 23 primary is the first test of Biden’s political power this election season, and the extraordinary circumstance will be widely observed, with polls showing him tied with potential Republican competitor Donald Trump.

Biden did not register for the New Hampshire primary when the state denied his demand that it give up its top slot on the presidential primary calendar to the more diverse South Carolina.

However, his New Hampshire followers can still vote for him because several states in the United States allow voters to write a candidate’s name on a ballot paper even if they are not running. That candidate wins if they earn more votes than the other registered candidates.

Andy Smith, director of the University of New Hampshire Survey Center, said Biden should accomplish “a fairly significant win,” but he wasn’t sure what it looked like.

“What is a big enough win to count? Right now, we see Biden with upwards of 70% of the vote. Is that enough? Does that mean the Democratic Party is behind him, or does it show division in the party?” Smith told Reuters.

Write-In Campaign Sparks Controversy

Supporters argue that the unexpected contest should not be considered a national litmus test because turnout will be low, write-in campaigns are notoriously difficult, and Biden infuriated Democrats in the state by removing it from its historical role as the party’s first-in-the-nation primary.

According to President Jim Demers, one of the organizers of the shoestring Biden write-in campaign, polls show Biden receiving anywhere from less than 50% to 60% of the vote.

State officials intend to proclaim a Democratic winner on Tuesday after counting write-in votes.

Biden supporters argue that the standard should be Alaska Senator Lisa Murkowski’s 2010 write-in campaign, which earned her the first US Senate victory in 50 years, with almost 40% of the vote and defeating a Tea Party favorite.

“She won with 39% of the vote as a candidate in a write-in effort she led, and Joe Biden and his campaign aren’t even participating in an effort to write his name in for this one,” said Jim Messina, who was then-President Barack Obama’s campaign manager in 2012.

The Democratic National Committee declared that the New Hampshire election will not count, and the winner will not get New Hampshire’s 23 delegates in the race for the party’s candidacy.

Some New Hampshire Democrats are clearly upset.

“When it comes down to it, we’re in the Democratic primary, and Biden has chosen to take his name off of the New Hampshire ballot,” said state representative Jonah Wheeler, a Democrat who supports Williamson.

Biden’s high-profile backers, including California Representative Ro Khanna, Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker, and Boston Mayor Michelle Wu, have been rallying the faithful, and organizers are working on a shoestring budget to teach voters how to write in candidates.

According to a CNN poll done by the University of New Hampshire Survey Center in mid-November, 65% of prospective Democratic primary voters in New Hampshire intend to write in Biden’s name, 10% for Phillips, and 9% for Williamson.

Lyndon B. Johnson, the Democratic incumbent, skipped the New Hampshire primary in 1968 owing to overconfidence, only to be met with an insurgent campaign from Minnesota, led by U.S. Senator Eugene McCarthy and his anti-Vietnam War program. Johnson supporters launched a barely successful write-in effort, but a weakened Johnson withdrew from the race weeks later.

Write-In Advocates Urge Opposition to Trump through Biden Votes

David Watters, a write-in advocate and Democratic state senator in New Hampshire, believes that the greatest way to express opposition to former President Donald Trump, his likely Republican competitor, is to write in Biden on Tuesday. 

“We’ve got to stand up for Joe Biden,” Watters said.

“I am disgusted with both parties, but we can’t elect Trump,” said Elliot Smith, 72. “I’m a Democrat, but would consider other Republicans like Haley or Christie in the general election, but there’s no chance they can beat Trump.”

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