MANCHESTER, N.H. — Rep. Dean Phillips of Minnesota says President Biden should be on the ballot in Tuesday’s New Hampshire Democrat presidential primary.
And Phillips, who in October launched a long-shot primary challenge against the president, is taking aim at the Democratic Party for keeping him off the ballot in some upcoming primaries.
Phillips, one of the wealthiest members of Congress, launched his campaign for the White House in late October and is focusing most of his time and resources on New Hampshire, where the president’s name won’t be on the ballot Tuesday in the state’s unsanctioned Democrat primary. Top Democrats in the state have launched a write-in campaign on the president’s behalf.
Phillips says he’s invested $5 million of his own money in his White House bid.
“A lot more than I intended,” he noted in an interview with Fox News Digital. But he said his investment may be starting to pay off as “grassroots donors are really starting to pop up.”
His ads are playing on New Hampshire airwaves in an effort to improve his name recognition.
Asked where he needs to finish in New Hampshire’s primary, Phillips said, “[W]e started at zero just 10 weeks ago. My name is not yet well known. And I think getting in the 20s would be an extraordinary accomplishment.”
PHILLIPS SAYS IT WILL BE ‘GAME ON’ WITH BIDEN IF HE SURPRISES IN NEW HAMPSHIRE
Rep. Dean Phillips, D-Minn., a Democrat presidential candidate, speaks to supporters at a campaign event in Rochester, New Hampshire, on Jan. 21, 2024. (Reuters/Faith Ninivaggi)
That appears to be a lowering of expectations from a few weeks earlier, but the latest poll in the Granite State’s Democrat primary indicates Phillips is far short of that goal. He stands at 10% in a University of New Hampshire/CNN poll conducted Jan. 16-19, a point ahead of bestselling author and spiritual adviser Marianne Williamson, who is making her second straight White House run.
Sixty-three percent of those questioned in the survey said they’d write in Biden’s name.
“I think what people should really be paying attention to is how strong is the incumbent president. When Bill Clinton was reelected as the incumbent in New Hampshire, he got 84%. When Barack Obama was reelected, he got 81%. So, I think those should be the benchmarks. What does Joe Biden earn in New Hampshire?” Phillips said.
And he argued that “if I get in the 20s, and he’s somewhere in the 50s or something, that is an extraordinary challenge for an incumbent to overcome. And I think that’s really the story here. I believe he’s unelectable. Polls are showing he’s unelectable. Now I think voters will show that he’s unelectable.”
PHILLIPS TAKES AIM AT BIDEN ON CAMPAIGN TRAIL
While the president is the commanding front-runner for his party’s 2024 nomination, polls indicate that many Americans – including plenty of Democrats – don’t want the president to seek a second term in the White House. Those same surveys spotlight that voters are not thrilled with the likely prospect of a rematch between Biden and the candidate he defeated in 2020: former President Trump.
The president more than a year ago proposed a nominating calendar for the 2024 election cycle that booted New Hampshire from its traditional leadoff primary position and replaced it with South Carolina, a much more diverse state where Black voters play an outsized role in Democrat politics.
President Biden arrives at Boston Logan International Airport to attend several campaign fundraisers on Dec. 5, 2023. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)
Biden came in a dismal fifth in the 2020 New Hampshire primary, but a few weeks later he won South Carolina in a landslide. The victory boosted the former vice president toward the Democrat nomination and eventually the White House.
The Democratic National Committee (DNC) a year ago overwhelmingly approved the calendar change proposed by the president. But New Hampshire leapfrogged South Carolina to honor a longtime state law that mandates the state holds the first primary. With the state holding an unsanctioned Democrat contest, the president’s reelection campaign last autumn announced that Biden wouldn’t file to place his name on the New Hampshire ballot.
Phillips, interviewed by Fox News on Friday at his New Hampshire campaign headquarters in Manchester, said, “I’m better positioned to beat Donald Trump, and over the coming weeks and months, I’ll demonstrate that.”
“If it is Joe Biden – somehow he recovers, which I do not think is possible – of course I would support him. And I think it’s not unlikely that perhaps someone else appears that might be in a position to win. But right now, I intend to be that person. I believe that we must stop a very dangerous man from returning to the White House.”
Former President Trump, a Republican presidential candidate, takes the stage during a campaign event in Manchester, New Hampshire, on Jan. 20, 2024. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)
Trump, at the start of his large rally Saturday night in Manchester, urged New Hampshire Democrats to vote for Phillips to send a signal to Biden that “you don’t abandon us.”
The former president bragged that due to his comment, Phillips “probably just picked up a lot of votes.”
Phillips has been taking aim at his party over the move by the Florida and North Carolina Democrats to keep him off the primary ballot in their states, as they listed only Biden’s name.
Some Republican state parties made similar moves in the 2020 cycle when Trump, as the incumbent president, was running for reelection.
“The state of Florida Democratic Party decided that Joe Biden won the primary election and that there did not need to be any votes cast, disenfranchising 4 million voters or so. The state of North Carolina did the same thing. The state of Massachusetts Democrats attempted the same thing, but the secretary of state intervened,” Phillips told Fox News.
And he argued that “when you’re trying to suppress voters, suppress candidates, and not even agree to debate, yeah, I think we have a problem with democracy, so I would ask of the president before I condemn him specifically: answer the questions. Why don’t you ask him that question?”
Asked if he had proof that Biden was actively involved in the efforts to keep Phillips off the ballot in certain states, the candidate responded, “I have no proof of that. I also have not seen one member of the media ask him that question, and that is exactly my contention. If you’re the president, or if you’re seeking the presidency, you should stand before the press and answer those questions. Until somebody does, I don’t know the answer, but I think it’s pretty evident that something’s going on.”
The Biden campaign has not commented on the controversy. But at a news conference in Des Moines, Iowa, last week ahead of that state’s caucuses, Biden campaign co-chair and former Dreamworks CEO Jeffrey Katzenberg said, “I don’t know,” when asked by Fox News about Phillips’ ballot access.
Gov. J.B. Pritzker of Illinois, another top Biden reelection campaign surrogate, quickly interjected that “the Supreme Court’s going to decide that. That’s not something, that’s not a Democratic Party position. It’s just in various states, people, individuals, have taken this issue up, and we’ll hear from the Supreme Court shortly.”
2020 Democrat presidential candidate Andrew Yang, left, teams up with Rep. Dean Phillips of Minnesota, who’s running for the 2024 Democrat presidential nomination, at a Dean campaign event on Jan. 18, 2024, in Manchester, New Hampshire. (Fox News/Monica Oroz)
Phillips has been crisscrossing New Hampshire in recent weeks, reiterating his argument that Biden is “not electable.”
“Mark my words, I would not be standing in front of you and have given up my career in Congress and taken on this risk … if it wasn’t the truth,” he told voters Sunday in Rochester, New Hampshire. “So, I just want you to all know I am in this with you. I’m your friend, I’m your advocate. I’m a Democrat – been so my whole life.”
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As Phillips campaigns in New Hampshire, the write-in effort to support Biden has intensified in recent weeks as high-profile Democrat surrogates urge voters to fill in the president’s name on the primary ballot.
Supporters of the Write-In Joe Biden effort in the New Hampshire primary are shown on Jan. 19, 2024, in Concord, New Hampshire. (Fox News/Clare O’Connor)
“Look, it’s no secret that people here were upset with the DNC, but people in New Hampshire take their responsibility very, very seriously,” Rep. Ro Khanna of California said Sunday in Dover, New Hampshire.
And Khanna said his message to voters is: “I don’t think you’re going to get any change with Nikki Haley, and Donald Trump’s going to win here. Trump is going to be the nominee. Nikki Haley is soon going to be endorsing him. So, you know, it’s not really a vote for a different direction.”
In recent weeks, another write-in effort also sprang up as progressives opposed to Biden’s support for Israel in its war with Hamas in Gaza urged voters to write in “cease-fire.”
Most of the action Tuesday will be in the Republican race. But the Democrat primary won’t be void of voters.
As of Friday, New Hampshire Secretary of State David Scanlan was predicting a turnout of 322,000 in the state’s GOP presidential primary and 88,000 in the Democrat contest.
Get the latest updates from the 2024 campaign trail, exclusive interviews and more at our Fox News Digital election hub.