‘Write In Biden’ effort launched in NH with Phillips running

President Joe Biden delivers remarks on the bipartisan infrastructure law on April 19, 2022, in Portsmouth, New Hampshire. (Scott Eisen/Getty Images/TNS)

President Joe Biden delivers remarks on the bipartisan infrastructure law on April 19, 2022, in Portsmouth, New Hampshire. (Scott Eisen/Getty Images/TNS) Scott Eisen

By Niels Lesniewski

CQ-Roll Call

Published: 11-01-2023 2:00 PM

WASHINGTON — Days after Minnesota Rep. Dean Phillips announced a long-shot presidential primary challenge focused in New Hampshire, prominent Granite State Democrats launched a write-in campaign for President Joe Biden.

Biden is not participating in New Hampshire’s unsanctioned (and still unscheduled) January primary, which will not comply with the new primary calendar set by the Democratic National Committee intended to give South Carolina the first say in picking presidential nominees. Despite the decision by the president’s campaign, his New Hampshire supporters are pushing voters to write his name in.

“It’s important to show the world that thousands of New Hampshire voters are supporting President Joe Biden as he protects our freedoms, stands up to the MAGA extremists, keeps us safe and strong at home and abroad, and builds an economy that works for everyone, not just those at the top,” a group called Write In Biden wrote in a launch email. “While misguided DNC rules will keep Joe Biden off the presidential primary ballot here in our state, New Hampshire Democrats and Democrat-leaning Independents overwhelmingly support Joe Biden and plan to write him in when our state once again holds the first-in-the-nation primary this winter.”

Rep. Ann McLane Kuster expressed her support for the write-in campaign in a post on X, the platform formerly known as Twitter.

“Joe Biden is the leader our country needs to continue moving America forward,” the New Hampshire Democrat wrote. “I’m proud to support the grassroots effort to Write-In Biden.”

Phillips, a millionaire third-term House member who resigned from House Democratic leadership while considering a 2024 presidential run, argues that winning New Hampshire would be a springboard to what he concedes is an uphill race.

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“I’m not running against President Biden. I admire him. I’m running for the future. I’m running to provide people a choice because if Democrats with a big D defeat democracy with a small D by pushing people aside, telling them to stand down and get out, that is antithetical to meeting the moment,” Phillips said in a weekend CNN interview. “It’s our generation’s turn to take those reins.”

In reality, though, Phillips, 54, is very much running against the 80-year-old incumbent even if they largely agree on policy. In the first two years of the Biden administration, when Democrats were setting agenda, Phillips voted with the president 100% of the time, according to CQ’s Vote Studies of presidential support.

The Democratic lawmaker has not so far picked up any support from his colleagues in the Capitol. Washington Rep. Pramila Jayapal, who chairs the Congressional Progressive Caucus, channeled the views of many Democrats in an interview Sunday on NBC’s “Meet the Press” when asked about his candidacy

“Everyone’s got the right to run, but I’m sorry, I have no idea what he is running on that is different from what President Biden is running on,” she said. “He took the same bold stances that President Biden has taken in this country on domestic issues. And I really don’t see what — what he is doing.”

In the current Congress with Republicans controlling the House, Phillips has infrequently broken from Biden’s position. Two of the three such votes this year came on measures Republicans posted to disapprove of local laws adopted in Washington, D.C. Phillips voted in favor of blocking changes to D.C. voting eligibility requirements and changes to the local criminal code.

Phillips’ vote of “yea” on blocking the criminal code changes came after the Office of Management and Budget recommended a “no” vote. But that recommendation stopped short of saying Biden would veto it if it passed, and the president ultimately did sign it after a series of events that led to substantial frustration among House Democrats who had sought to maintain at least enough opposition to sustain a veto.

The third vote where Phillips differed from Biden this year came on a House GOP-led bill targeting fraud in pandemic unemployment insurance benefits, which Phillips supported.

OMB argued that the bill would not accomplish its intended purpose by effectively reducing resources for several modernization efforts.

“The bill would stop work on the modernization of antiquated UI systems in states across the country, undermining efforts to detect and deter fraud and improve identity verification and cybersecurity while ensuring timely, equitable, and accurate delivery of benefits to eligible workers,” the statement of administration policy, which did threaten a veto, said.

Biden himself will be in Phillips’ home state of Minnesota on Wednesday for a trip that includes a visit to a farm with Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, part of the latest administration road show promoting the president’s agenda. Vilsack said the trip would highlight investments in rural America.

Gov. Tim Walz, D-Minn., lent his name to a fundraising email for the Biden-Harris reelection campaign that went out Friday morning, just as Phillips was launching in New Hampshire.

“If we take our eyes off the ball, we could lose out on all of the progress we’ve made,” Walz wrote. “We’re up against Joe Biden’s only credible opponents: Donald Trump and his MAGA minions. We need everyone’s head in the game if we’re going to defeat them — everything else is a silly sideshow.”

If Phillips’ candidacy is unsuccessful, he could still seek reelection to his 3rd District seat, since the filing deadline for the Minnesota ballot is not until June for a primary in August. There’s already another Democrat running, however. Ron Harris, a former DNC executive committee member and Minneapolis city official, announced Oct. 13 he would seek the nomination in the district, which backed Biden over Trump by 21 points in 2020.

Roll Call staff writer Ryan Kelly contributed to this report.