A cautionary tale for Biden or just history? – NBC New York

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By Dan Sears

Fifty-six years ago, the Los Angeles Times splashed the results of the New Hampshire presidential primary on the top of its front page: “LBJ BARELY WINS; SWEEP FOR NIXON.”

President Lyndon Johnson, struggling with a deeply unpopular war in Vietnam, hadn’t appeared on the ballot though he eked out a win with tens of thousands of write-in votes. 

But the surprise showing by a relatively unknown senator from Minnesota, Eugene McCarthy, demonstrated how much trouble the president’s re-election campaign was in.

Weeks later, Johnson was out of the race.

The year 1968 may feel like a lifetime ago politically, but for Democratic observers in New Hampshire, there are some troubling similarities.

This year, Joe Biden isn’t on the New Hampshire ballot either. He’s protesting the state’s refusal to follow a new calendar set by the party’s leaders.

He’s also confronting an unpopular war, between Israel and Hamas, which has helped to send his poll numbers falling. His approval rating was 40% in November, the lowest of his presidency.

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And another politician from Minnesota, Rep. Dean Phillips, will be on the ballot, hoping to benefit from the kind of dissatisfaction among young voters that sank Johnson’s presidency.

“Right now, if this election was held today, President Biden would lose, and it is an existential threat to the future of the United States of America,” Phillips told NBC’s “Meet the Press” in October. “That will not happen under my watch.”

Iowa and New Hampshire are seen as the official kick-off to presidential election season, and can make or break presidential campaigns. But how these two states came to be first on the election trail may surprise you.

Biden’s supporters are working to head off a historical repeat and have organized a write-in campaign — even though the primary will not be recognized by the Democratic party.

“I think it’s really important that we send a message nationally,” said Matt Wilhelm, the New Hampshire House Democratic Leader. “All the Republican candidates are here, so they’ll have a story coming out of New Hampshire. It’s important that the Democrats do as well.”

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The “Write-in Joe Biden” campaign says it is a grassroots effort organized by Democrats and independents across New Hampshire with a goal of protecting democracy from “MAGA extremism,” a reference to slogan of former Republican President Donald Trump.

Biden’s campaign says it is not involved in the effort.

This year, the Democratic National Committee set South Carolina’s primary as its first, a push to ensure Black Democrats and other minorities have more of a say in choosing a presidential candidate. Biden’s break-through win in the 2020 race came in South Carolina, helping to keep his candidacy alive. 

But New Hampshire has held the first-in-the-nation primary since 1920 and it’s a distinction it’s loathe to give up. It’s going ahead on Jan. 23, ahead of South Carolina’s Democratic presidential contest on Feb. 3. 

Republicans will vote in South Carolina on Feb. 24.

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