When Vice President Joe Biden handed a simple one-page form to New Hampshire’s secretary of state Thursday, he guaranteed for the first time that President Obama’s’s name would appear on a ballot for reelection, doing so in a state where voters’ opinion of the president have markedly changed in the three years since they backed his initial candidacy.
On the fourth day of the two-week filing period, Biden waded through a throng of excited supporters crowding the hallway of the New Hampshire statehouse to “make it official,” as the vice president put it.
“Barack Obama is running for president of the United States!” Biden announced behind the historic desk used once every four years for the dozens of presidential hopefuls who file.
The fact that Biden came and not Obama was not unusual; sitting presidents rarely file their own paperwork in the state.
But Biden has been the stand-in for Obama in New Hampshire for much of the administration’s first term. The president has made repeated visits to states like Ohio, North Carolina, Virginia and others. But his last stop in New Hampshire was in April 2010 -- and even then only to drive to an event in neighboring Maine. He held a town hall meeting on healthcare reform in Nashua two months earlier.
Thursday was Biden’s third trip this year.
In 2008, Obama carried New Hampshire by nearly 10 points. But in 2010, Republican gains here were among the strongest nationally, including a swing of more than 100 seats in the state Legislature.
A University of New Hampshire survey conducted earlier this month showed Obama’s job approval rating in the state at an all-time low -- 41%. Even though the state’s unemployment rate is among the lowest in the country, just 37% approve of his handling of the economy.
In the same survey, Mitt Romney leads Obama 50%-42% in the general election. But Biden said his presence was not simply to file for the primary but to send the message that they expect “to win New Hampshire” next November.
“It’s already pretty clear whoever the [Republican] candidate is what the battle lines will be,” Biden said. “We’re prepared to take that case and anxious to take that case ... to the people of the United States and the people here in New Hampshire.”
The team does have this going for it: at least for now, no other Democratic candidate has filed yet to run in the New Hampshire primary. Gardner said no candidate has run unopposed in a recent primary, since the threshold to qualify is intentionally low.
Thursday’s visit was Biden’s third to Gardner’s office to file paperwork for a presidential run.
“You’re an old hand at this,” the long-serving New Hampshire secretary of state said to Biden when he arrived, pointing to a photo on the wall of the then-Delaware senator campaigning in the state in 1988.
“This time I got the right guy,” Biden said. “Last time it was me.”
George W. Bush sent his sister, Doro, to place him on the ballot for the 2004 primary. Barbara Bush filed on behalf George H. W. Bush in 1991. Hillary Clinton filed for her husband, Bill, for the primaries in 1992 and 1996.