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Minnesota Rep. to challenge Biden in New Hampshire Democratic Primary

Minnesota Congressman Dean Phillips, 54, has been vocal in his calls for a serious challenge to Biden.
Minnesota Rep. to challenge Biden in New Hampshire Democratic Primary
Posted at 8:31 PM, Oct 26, 2023

Minnesota U.S. Rep. Dean Phillips will file for the New Hampshire Democratic presidential primary on Friday, challenging President Joe Biden. 

As of Thursday, 15 Democratic candidates have filed, but the Minnesota Congressman, 54, has been vocal in his calls for a serious Democratic challenger to Biden. In August, Phillips told PBS, "My call is for the president to pass the torch." 

"I think that would be in the country's best interests, and certainly Democrats'," he said. "We have an extraordinary bench of Democrats ready to go, prepared, proximate, well-positioned, but we will never know that."   

He went on to say his call for a challenger was not about his own ambitions to be president, but because he doesn’t want a repeat of 2016 when Republican Donald Trump defeated Democrat Hillary Clinton. 

While Phillips has long been hinting about exploring a run, the wait comes to an end Friday — the last day to file for the New Hampshire primary.

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The last time an incumbent president was denied their party's nomination was in 1884, when Chester Arthur lost to his secretary of state, Republican James G. Blaine — but that was before the modern era of modern primaries. 

Blaine went on to lose the contest to New York Gov. Grover Cleveland.  

In 1952, Democratic Sen. Estes Kefauver took on Harry S. Truman for the Democratic nomination. Kefauver didn’t win the nomination, but did win New Hampshire — the first primary of the season, after which Truman decided not to run for re-election.  

Asked about a potential Phillips run earlier this week, White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said, "We appreciate the congressman's almost 100% support of this president as he's moved forward with some really important, key legislative priorities for the American people." 

"I think the polls have shown that there are a lot of Democrats around the country that would love to see anybody else jump into this thing," said Scott Spradling, the former political director for WMUR-TV in Manchester, NH. 

"Well, anybody else is now jumping in, so let's see how this goes. I don't think this is necessarily a win for Trump,” he said.  

Phillips is in his third term in the U.S. House representing Minnesota's 3rd District in suburban Minneapolis. He is a Gold Star Son, who once served as the CEO of his family business, Philips Distilling Company, and later went on to co-found Talenti gelato, which was sold to Unilever in 2014. His grandmother, Pauline Phillips, wrote the well-known advice column, "Dear Abby."

In October, Phillips stepped down as co-chair of the Democratic Policy and Communications Committee, explaining in a prepared statement, "My convictions relative to the 2024 presidential race are incongruent with the majority of my caucus, and I felt it appropriate to step aside from elected leadership to avoid unnecessary distractions during a critical time for our country."

Adding to the political chaos, Biden urged the Democratic National Committee to change the primary calendar last year to put South Carolina’s contest first. That doesn’t jibe with New Hampshire state law, which dictates the Granite State's primary must be held at least one week before any similar contest. State law also gives the secretary of state authority to set the date of the 2024 primary — something that Sec. of State David Scanlan has yet to do. Currently, South Carolina’s Democratic primary is scheduled for Feb. 3.  

The DNC scheduled New Hampshire's primary for Feb. 6, but New Hampshire officials have signaled it will stick to its tradition of being first in the nation, prompting Biden to stay off the ballot in the Granite State.

That means Biden will not appear in print, but some Democratic leaders have launched a write-in campaign.  

"The most complicated part of this 3D chess equation, is the fact that the establishment of the Democratic party still kind of has to sort of feel like they're sticking with Joe Biden. That's tough for Congressman Phillips. He's gotta break through. He can do that with independent voters, who right now think that the only game in town is on the Republican side of the fight," Spradling said. 

"So, it's on him, but he's got a shot."

A campaign email sent out late Thursday indicates Phillips' official public announcement will happen at 11:30 a.m. on Friday at the New Hampshire State House. The email closes by saying, "America is ready for a new generation of leaders - leaders with courage to speak the truth. Dean believes that America's best days are still ahead and EVERYONE is invited."

Phillips is scheduled to have his first live national interview since confirming his run for the White House with national correspondent Maritsa Georgiou during Morning Rush on Scripps News on Friday morning.

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