Democrat Dean Phillips plans to launch a presidential bid in New Hampshire — maybe

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Plans for Dean Phillips to launch a presidential campaign on Oct. 27 in Concord, N.H., are underway, according to two people directly familiar with the event. But one source cautioned that Phillips could still opt not to do it.

Democratic consulting firm Fletcher Ridge, led by Bill Fletcher, obtained a permit for the State House Plaza from 8 a.m. to noon next Friday, according to a spokesperson for the Concord Department of Administrative Services. Fletcher, a Tennessee-based consultant, has been approached to work with Phillips, according to a source familiar with the campaign.

Such a move would be a dramatic leap into the national spotlight for the three-term congressman from Minnesota, who stepped down from his House leadership position over his 2024 flirtation, sparking tension within the caucus. Phillips has been vocal about his objections to the president, who he says would need to be “15-20 years younger” to earn a forceful endorsement.

Phillips has taken several steps toward solidifying a run of his own in recent weeks, including outreach to potential staffers and top New Hampshire Democrats. He’s also told fellow House members that he plans to launch a challenge to Biden.

Phillips and his spokesperson did not respond to immediate requests for comment.

But his potential run is already stirring anger and frustration among Democrats in Washington and New Hampshire, who argue that such a challenge unnecessarily weakens Biden as he turns to a difficult reelection battle.

Rep. Annie Kuster (D-N.H.) and Phillips discussed his possible primary challenge, and Kuster shared her concerns with the lawmaker, according to sources familiar with the conversations.

Fellow members of his Minnesota delegation seemed resigned to the possibility.

“Dean’s going to do what he wants to do,” said Rep. Betty McCollum (D-Minn.), who added that she told Phillips she was supporting Biden. “It’s a free country, and if that’s where his heart is and he wants to do it, then he should.”

An event next Friday coincides with the deadline to file for a presidential run in the state, but the deadline has already passed to compete in the primary in Nevada, another early nominating state.

Phillips’ decision comes at a particularly fraught moment for New Hampshire, which was stripped of its first-in-the-nation primary status by the Democratic National Committee. Last month, the DNC voted New Hampshire as “non-compliant” in its plans to move forward with an unsanctioned primary ahead of South Carolina, which was elevated to the first-place slot by the DNC last year.

That move, some New Hampshire Democrats acknowledge privately, could leave an opening for a primary challenger, like Phillips, to win the first presidential contest — even if it comes with no DNC delegates.

“New Hampshire voters are not going to cut off their nose to spite their face,” said Terry Shumaker, a former ambassador and veteran of multiple Democratic presidential campaigns in New Hampshire. “New Hampshire Democrats and Independents recognize that Biden has done a really good job.”

“Phillips can try [to exploit the calendar], but he should’ve started six months ago,” Shumaker added. “Frankly, I think it’s too late.”

Top Democrats in New Hampshire expect a write-in campaign to kick off on behalf of Biden, who is currently not expected to appear on the ballot.

Some Democrats who were staunch Biden supporters expressed exasperation at the idea that Biden has attracted so many challengers.

Rep. Emanuel Cleaver (D-Mo.) said he was “alarmed” by the Biden challengers and the possibility that a third-party spoiler could run in the general election.

“If they run in the general election, they’re going to do enormous damage to the likelihood that Biden can win, which means Trump wins,” he said. “I don’t understand those who feel the need to challenge a successful president.”

Others thought Biden would shrug off a possible Phillips’ launch just like he did with Marianne Williamson and Robert F. Kennedy Jr., who recently left the Democratic Party.

“The more the merrier,” quipped Rep. Jim Clyburn (D-S.C.), a close Biden ally.

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