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Biden Set to Avoid New Hampshire Primary Humiliation

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Photo: Drew Angerer/Getty Images

There’s a lot of buzz this week about polls from New Hampshire showing a potentially competitive Republican race between Donald Trump and Nikki Haley. Guess what’s not getting any buzz at all? Polls of the Democratic primary in New Hampshire showing Joe Biden with about a 60-point lead over rivals Dean Phillips and Marianne Williamson.

That’s interesting, since at various points in 2023, it was fashionable for media types, Republicans, and some nervous Democrats to predict that like Lyndon Johnson in 1968, Biden might give his party some fresh options by stepping aside just after underperforming badly in the New Hampshire primary (Johnson, as a write-in candidate, defeated antiwar challenger Eugene McCarthy, but not by anything like as much as the expected margin). In May, conservative pundit Hugh Hewitt predicted an “LBJ exit” for Biden, as did lefty independent presidential candidate Cornel West in December. And, in October, Politico columnist Jonathan Martin said that Biden had made a “big blunder” by messing with New Hampshire’s first-primary status, inviting a “rude awakening” from Phillips when the Granite State voted in January.

That has turned out to be a dog that not only didn’t bark but is barely visible. According to a new survey from USA Today/Suffolk, Phillips is at 6 percent among likely voters in New Hampshire, while Williamson is at 2 percent. Biden is at 64 percent as a write-in candidate. In the latest CNN/UNH survey, Phillips and Williamson are doing slightly better, at 7 percent and 6 percent, respectively. But Biden is doing better too, at 69 percent. If there’s any Phillips boom building in the Granite State, it is doing so very quietly:

In retrospect, the “LBJ moment” talk was pretty clearly being promoted by Republicans eager to depict Biden as a stone loser; a smattering of panicky Democrats hopeful to find a replacement nominee; and political writers looking for some excitement in a predictably boring nomination contest a sitting president was obviously going to win. When Biden wins renomination in March, maybe speculation that he will “step aside” will finally subside, but facts don’t always move those motivated by malice, wishful thinking, or the search for clicks.


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