Enterprise-Record (Chico)

Biden reelection bid faces resistance

- By Steve Peoples

Steve Shurtleff was at Joe Biden's side in 2019 when he filed papers in the New Hampshire State House to run for president.

He repeatedly trekked across the state with Biden to court primary voters. And when Biden ultimately won the presidency, it was Shurtleff, then the Democratic state House speaker, who proudly sealed the envelope that carried New Hampshire's four electoral votes — including his own name — to the U.S. Senate.

But on the eve of a new election season, Shurtleff, like a majority of Democrats across the country, feels that one term is enough.

“In my heart of hearts, no,” Shurtleff said when asked if he wants Biden to run again. “I think a lot of people just don't want to say it.”

Democrats across New Hampshire are upset with the Democratic president for trying to end the state's status as home to the firstin-the-nation presidenti­al primary. But their concerns about Biden run much deeper, in line with a majority of Democratic voters nationwide, who question the 80-year-old president's plans to soon launch his reelection campaign.

Just 37% of Democrats nationwide want the president to seek a second term, according to a poll released last month by The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research. That was down from 52% in the weeks before last year's midterm elections.

Many worry about Biden's age. Others, like Shurtleff, are upset about the administra­tion's messy withdrawal from Afghanista­n. And the party's progressiv­e wing has never been enthusiast­ic about Biden, who is perceived as a moderate, despite his lengthy list of achievemen­ts.

The White House cast Biden's perceived weakness within his own party as an exaggerate­d narrative that he has repeatedly proven wrong.

“We're aware pundits' attitude toward President Biden is unchanged from before he earned the nomination faster than anyone since 2004, won the most votes in American history, built the strongest legislativ­e record in generation­s and led the best midterm outcome for a new Democratic president in 60 years,” Biden spokesman Andrew Bates said. “Based on comparing the accuracy of our prediction­s versus theirs, we are happy for this dynamic to continue.”

Still, there's a risk of a disconnect between rankand-file Democrats and the party's establishm­ent. While voters are signaling unease about the prospect of another Biden campaign, Democratic governors, senators and congressio­nal representa­tives are virtually unanimous in supporting Biden's reelection.

One exception may be New Hampshire, a small swing state whose electoral votes could be critical in a tight general election. The state has challenged Biden before.

Voters here served Biden an embarrassi­ng fifthplace finish in the 2020 Democratic primary. New Hampshire polls were still open when he decamped to South Carolina, where his presidenti­al ambitions were revived by a decisive win. That state is now Biden's pick to lead the 2024 presidenti­al primary calendar.

Interviews with angry New Hampshire Democrats across state government and local Democratic committees suggest there is some appetite for a serious primary challenger in 2024. But top-tier prospects don't seem to be interested.

So far, only Democratic activist and author Marianne Williamson has entered the 2024 primary field. Robert F. Kennedy Jr., the son of the late New York senator and known for railing against vaccines, met with New Hampshire voters on Friday. He's also leaning toward a bid.

But the likes of Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, Biden's fiercest primary challenger in 2020, has vowed to back the president in 2024. So has Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker, whose appearance at last year's New Hampshire's Democratic convention still comes up in conversati­on. California Rep. Ro Khanna, a progressiv­e favorite, has also said he would not challenge Biden, although he has been a vocal advocate for New Hampshire's place atop the primary calendar.

In an interview, Khanna said it was “political malpractic­e” for the Democratic National Committee, under Biden's direction, to threaten New Hampshire's status.

“New Hampshire is a state where retail politics still matter and where voters have an independen­ce that can't be controlled by the party establishm­ent in DC,” Khanna said. The primary shakeup “could cost us four electoral votes and hurt our chances to win in the 2024 election.”

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