Biden must be wary of New Hampshire

Biden must be wary of New Hampshire

The upcoming New Hampshire primary and the ghosts of LBJ and Vietnam haunt Joe Biden’s reelection bid. In 1968, opposition among younger voters to Lyndon Johnson over the war and the draft, coupled with his weak first place showing in the New Hampshire primary, led him to exit early from the race.

“There is division in the American house now,” Johnson declared late in March 1968. Riots at the Democrats’ Chicago convention that summer didn’t help. Republican Richard Nixon triumphed the following November.

Fifty-five years later, the Israel-Hamas war could upend the tenure of another Democratic president. As was the case more than a half-century ago, dissatisfaction among younger Democrats stands to play an outsized role.

Among older Americans, 53% approve of Biden’s handling of the war, 41% disapprove. The 18 to 34 age cohort, however, takes a distinctly different view. Seven-in-ten give the president a thumbs-down while only one-in-five side with him, according to the latest NBC poll. Nationally, Donald Trump is ahead of his successor, 46-44. That leads swells to four points among the younger voters.

But it isn’t simply about age. The Democrats’ polychromatic coalition is at war with itself. Diversity can bring tension. A majority of Black voters (53-26) and half of Hispanics (50-34) “disapprove of the way Israel is responding to the Oct. 7 Hamas terrorist attack.” Whites, by contrast, approve of Israel’s response, 52-35.

The split has been festering for decades. At the 1988 Democratic convention, delegates rejected a call for a Palestinian state but not before Chuck Schumer, then a congressman from Brooklyn, found himself subjected to the ire of Jesse Jackson’s supporters. In the run-up to the convention, seven Democratic state parties had backed calls for a pro-Palestinian platform plank.

“The rights of the Palestinian people to safety, self-determination and an independent state” received a nod in Illinois, Jackson’s home. “I am confident [these views] do not reflect American opinion in general, nor the mainstream of the Democratic Party,” the American Jewish Committee pushed back.

Fast forward to 2015. Michael Oren, Israel’s U.S.-born and Columbia University-educated ambassador to Washington, recognized the rise of the Obama coalition, but wrote in “Ally,” his memoir, that the Netanyahu-led government was dismissive of his concerns. In fact, during the 2012 presidential campaign, Ron Dermer, Bibi Netanyahu’s right-hand man and Oren’s successor as ambassador, quarterbacked Mitt Romney’s campaign stop in Jerusalem.

The New Hampshire primary set for Jan. 23 stands to further complicate Biden’s life. As a result of changes to the nominating process demanded by the White House, the president’s name will not appear on the primary ballot.

Facing multiple challenges for the nomination, the Biden campaign must now scramble to orchestrate a time-consuming and avoidable write-in drive. In hindsight, all this is looking as thought-out as the chaotic U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan. 

Favored to win the New Hampshire contest, Biden’s margin of victory may be paltry. Meanwhile, incumbents who look shaky coming out of the Granite State seldom regain their footing.

It’s not just LBJ. In 1952, another Democratic president, Harry Truman, was driven from the race by New Hampshire disappointment.

In 1980, Ted Kennedy kept Jimmy Carter from gaining an actual majority in the first primary. Ronald Reagan then trounced Carter in the fall.

Since Oct. 7, the left’s disdain for Israel has burst into the open. Chants of “from the river to the sea” are commonplace. Earlier this month, more than 20 Democrats joined congressional Republicans to censure Democrat Rep. Rashida Tlaib of Michigan for her ill-concealed support for Hamas.

America’s universities have emerged as de facto battlegrounds. The woke harass Jewish students while administrators appear frozen by the strictures of diversity, equity and inclusion. The so-called oppressed possess greater latitude than others. Harvard, Columbia, Cooper Union and the University of Michigan have all found themselves in the news — and not in a good way.

In that same confrontational spirit, demonstrators blockaded the Democratic National Committee headquarters in Washington, stormed New York’s Grand Central Terminal, and blocked a meeting of California Democrats. What feels fun in the moment may boomerang, as backlash sets in.

The Chicago convention riots likely cost the Democrats the White House in 1968 and the excesses of Black Lives Matter nearly returned Donald Trump to the White House in 2020. The current administration remains committed to a two-state solution. The GOP not so much.

Joe Biden may yet be the last unalloyed pro-Israel Democratic president. Right now, however, he sets U.S. policy. And from the looks of things, he may pay for it.

Green, an attorney, was a Justice Department appointee during the administration of George H.W. Bush.

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