Democratic Rep. Dean Phillips – who’s primary challenging President Biden – is pushing back against criticism from a top Biden ally that he’s being disrespectful to Black voters.
And the moderate three-term congressman from Minnesota who launched his 2024 White House run last week charged – as he answered a question from Fox News Digital – that those who are attacking him are fueling a “political conversation that’s dividing the country right now.”
Hours after Phillips formally declared his candidacy on Friday in New Hampshire after filing to place his name on the ballot in the state that’s held the first-in-the-nation presidential primary for a century, longtime Democratic Rep. Jim Clyburn of South Carolina took aim at Phillips for campaigning in the Granite State.
“South Carolinians have demonstrated for decades that we are good predictors of great presidential candidates. Apparently, Dean Phillips disagrees,” Clyburn – a co-chair of Biden’s re-election campaign – charged. “He’s not respecting the wishes of the titular head of our Party and the loyalties of some of our Party’s most reliable constituents.”
The president nearly a year ago proposed a nominating calendar for the 2024 election cycle that booted New Hampshire from its traditional lead-off primary position and replaced it with South Carolina, a much more diverse state where Black voters play an outsized role in Democratic politics.
Biden came in a dismal fifth in the 2020 New Hampshire primary, but a few weeks later won South Carolina in a landslide, thanks in part to the support of Clyburn in the final stretch ahead of the contest. The victory boosted the then-former vice president towards the Democratic nomination and eventually the White House.
The Democratic National Committee (DNC) earlier this year overwhelmingly approved the calendar change proposed by the president. But New Hampshire is on course to leapfrog South Carolina, as it honors a longtime state law that mandates the state holds the first primary. With the state on course to hold an unsanctioned Democratic contest, the president’s re-election campaign last week announced that Biden wouldn’t file to place his name on the New Hampshire ballot.
But Phillips is campaigning in New Hampshire, which irked Clyburn and another top Black supporter of Biden, longtime Rep. Bennie Thompson of Mississippi.
“Black voters are an essential piece of the Democratic coalition, and any candidate for President of the United States ought to know and respect their pivotal role in how Democrats win national elections,” Clyburn argued.
Asked by Fox News about the criticism from Clyburn, Phillips said Tuesday that “I’m disappointed. Mr. Clyburn, a man I admire and respect, knows better. And that’s exactly the political conversation that’s dividing the country right now.”
“All I’m doing is appearing in a great American state that has a 103-year-old tradition of assessing candidates first,” Phillips emphasized. “That’s not precluding me from getting to South Carolina or Michigan or anywhere else in the country. And that’s exactly the problem. Exactly.”
Phillips said on Friday that he planned to head to South Carolina to file to place his name on the state’s Democratic primary ballot ahead of a Nov. 10 deadline.
Phillips, one of the wealthiest members of Congress, took questions from Fox News and other news organizations on Tuesday after holding a campaign event at Saint Anselm College’s New Hampshire Institute of Politics, which is a must stop for White House hopefuls.
“Anybody who knows me and will get to know me knows how much affection and appreciation I have for every community – the Black community, the Brown community, LGBTQ+ community. Jewish community, Muslim community, Christian community, Buddhist community,” Phillips highlighted. “Those who are participating in dividing by casting blame and shadow on people like me – that’s part of the problem and I can’t wait to get to South Carolina to introduce myself. And I have respect for Mr. Clyburn but I think that’s exactly what’s wrong.”
Fox News reached out to Clyburn’s office for reaction, but didn’t receive a response at the time this story posted.
But veteran Democratic strategist and DNC committee member Maria Cardona criticized Phillips over his decision to skip the primary in Nevada, another crucial early voting state in the Democrats’ 2024 presidential nominating calendar.
“Ha!! Give me a break. @RepDeanPhillips has so much affection for brown voters that he gave us the middle finger by not bothering to file & compete in NV w LOTS of Latino voters!” Cardona said as she responded to Phillips comments to Fox News.
Phillips has also faced criticism that his primary challenge will weaken Biden’s chances of winning re-election next year.
But the congressman pushed back against those claims and pointed to a new poll from Gallup, that indicated Biden’s approval rating with Americans continuing to edge deeper underwater.
“The idea that I am weakening Joe Biden is not factual,” he said as he took questions from the audience at the New Hampshire Institute of Politics. “It’s not me who has Biden at 37%, and losing in swing states.”