Dean Philips and Marianne Williamson rail against Biden to a crowd of seventh graders

Williamson chimed in: “I agree with that.”

But Biden was
in South Carolina, drawing contrasts
not with his Democratic challengers but with his likely general-election opponent, former President Donald Trump.

And so Phillips and Williamson were left to make the case against him at a convention hosted by a local college in a debate airing on Monday evening Sirius XM radio. The only other presidential hopeful scheduled to show up and speak at the event was low-polling Republican former Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson.

Phillips cast Biden as a “risk to democracy” because “he is knowingly going into an election which his approval numbers and his poll numbers make it almost impossible to win” — a nod to national surveys that show Biden trailing Trump and, in some cases, Republican former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley.

“I know Marianne feels the same way,” Phillips said as he stood alongside her. “We are the only two in the United States of America on the Democratic side of the aisle to stand up and tell you the truth: he’s going to lose, he’s going to lose.”

The intraparty spat over this year’s nominating calendar created an opening for Phillips and Williamson in the Granite State, where the results of the Jan. 23 Democratic primary won’t count toward the party’s nomination but where a stronger-than-expected showing by either candidate could create an embarrassing situation for the incumbent.

Yet, two weeks before voters head to the polls, neither Phillips nor Williamson appear to be denting Biden’s support in surveys in the state where the only way to cast a vote for the president will be to write in his name on the ballot. A
Saint Anselm College poll
from mid-December showed Biden with a 40-percentage-point lead over his rivals.

And Biden’s allies are ramping up their efforts with the write-in campaign. Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-Md.) became the latest in a string of high-profile surrogates to throw his weight behind the effort, appearing in a press conference in Concord on Monday afternoon alongside Rep. Annie Kuster (D-N.H.) and prominent Democratic state Sen. Donna Soucy to cast this election as a choice between a champion of democracy in Biden and a threat to it in Trump.

A super PAC set up to encourage voters to write in Biden’s name has also spent nearly $350,000 so far on mailers, digital advertising and phone banking, according to the group’s latest campaign finance filings.

“It’s obviously harder for a candidate to run as a write-in candidate than to have their name appear on the ballot. And so, I’m glad that the true-blue Democrats of New Hampshire are going to get out and vote and bring their pens,” Raskin said. “It’s not the kind of election where you can sit back and flip a coin or watch the polls. This is an election where we need everybody engaged and involved.”

Yet Williamson argued in the debate that the party can’t win another election by again talking about Trump.

Instead, the two tried to outflank Biden on the left by getting into an argument over Medicare for All — the policy bugaboo that has plagued Democrats since Sen. Bernie Sanders first ran for president.

Williamson accused Phillips of pandering to progressives by
signing onto Medicare for All
— a signature issue for the far-left — two months after launching his campaign. Phillips responded by saying he was an original cosponsor of Rep. Ro Khanna’s bill for state-based universal healthcare, and that while he’s now embraced the concept more broadly, the Medicare for All bill is “not perfect.”

Yet the two largely agreed on other issues — to the point where the moderator had to step in to encourage the fringe candidates to draw some contrasts with each other. Both accused the Democratic Party of voter suppression for not counting New Hampshire’s primary because Biden and national Democrats wanted South Carolina to vote first. And they both warned that the party is headed for disaster in November unless voters pick a different standard-bearer now.

But while Phillips spoke of defeating Trump, Williamson tried to argue that focusing on the former president was a distraction.

“People who like Donald Trump like Donald Trump, they’re going to vote for Donald Trump,” Williamson said. “The danger for Democrats is not people voting for Donald Trump. … The danger is people staying home.”

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