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Biden has 2 primary challengers in New Hampshire: How Phillips and Williamson are campaigning

In the final days of campaigning for Republicans ahead of their closely watched presidential primary in New Hampshire on Tuesday, two Democratic candidates have been trying to make their own kind of splash -- similarly traversing the state in a race where their leading opponent is notably absent.

Minnesota Rep. Dean Phillips and author and speaker Marianne Williamson are challenging incumbent President Joe Biden for the 2024 Democratic nomination.

They each face a steep challenge, as Democrats at nearly every level of the party -- from the national committee to state leaders -- have rallied behind Biden while polling shows neither Phillips or Williamson has gotten much momentum with voters.

That hasn't deterred them, though, even as a protracted dispute over scheduling has technically rendered New Hampshire's primary results irrelevant for actually winning the presidential nomination.

Biden also declined to campaign in the state or be listed on the primary ballot because of the calendar fight between the state and the DNC -- but Phillips and Williamson have been trying to use New Hampshire as a launching pad for their own candidacies.

Phillips has hosted over 60 events across the state since he started his White House bid in October.

"I'm only nine or 10 weeks into this whole thing. People don't know me yet. That's actually a blessing. I'm going to be working my tail off introducing myself," Phillips told ABC News' Zohreen Shah on Thursday in New Hampshire, noting that he intends to make it all the way until the national convention.

Since starting his campaign, Phillips has given sometimes contradictory statements about his future. He previously said he would end his bid and back Biden after Super Tuesday, in early March, if he wasn't succeeding. More recently, he initially suggested -- and then clarified otherwise -- that he might launch a third-party run.

Williamson, who entered the race in March 2023, has held over 200 events across over 300 towns in the state. She's been in New Hampshire for 17 straight days, participating in over 85 events just this month.

She told ABC News' Jonathan Karl last year that "I don't see myself as running against Joe Biden. I see this campaign as challenging a system."

Phillips has defined his candidacy less on policy differences with Biden than by concern about Biden's strength in a rematch with Donald Trump.

PHOTO: Democratic presidential hopeful US Representative Dean Phillips speaks during a campaign event in Peterborough, New Hampshire, Jan. 17, 2024.  (Joseph Prezioso/AFP via Getty Images)
PHOTO: Democratic presidential hopeful US Representative Dean Phillips speaks during a campaign event in Peterborough, New Hampshire, Jan. 17, 2024. (Joseph Prezioso/AFP via Getty Images)

MORE: Biden's not on the ballot in New Hampshire's primary, but Dems still want him to win. Here's how.

Biden isn't officially running in the primary, but his allies have been organizing an unusual write-in campaign to try and prove that even in his absence, he remains popular and his challengers can't catch up to him at the ballot box.

Phillips points to that to argue New Hampshire is being ignored, given its decadeslong and cherished (if sometimes controversial) place at the front of the primary calendar.

"If he wrote you off, why would you write him in?" Phillips asked at an event in Nashua on Saturday. "Seems like the president is taking the Granite State for granted."

PHOTO: Supporters of a Pres. Joe Biden write-in campaign stand outside the Holderness Town Hall polling site during presidential primary election day, Jan. 23, 2024, in Holderness, N.H.  (Michael Dwyer/AP)
PHOTO: Supporters of a Pres. Joe Biden write-in campaign stand outside the Holderness Town Hall polling site during presidential primary election day, Jan. 23, 2024, in Holderness, N.H. (Michael Dwyer/AP)

New Hampshire voter Daniel Rosario cast a ballot for Phillips on Tuesday because, he said, he felt like the candidate was one he "saw most, which influences a lot in who you vote for."

Williamson has expressed optimism in the message she's been able to relay to New Hampshire voters -- an "economy of hope and opportunity" and an overhaul of health care and environmental wellness, among other issues, as her campaign website states.

"I feel when I speak to audiences, I feel heard and I feel this enthusiasm for our message. Getting out to enough people is hard. I don't have the multimillion-dollar ad campaigns. We don't have those kinds of resources," she said in an interview with ABC News.

"New Hampshire will decide," she continued. "If my numbers are high enough and I have the money, I'll be going on to the next state. If not, I will hold my head held high, proud of the messages that we gave and what this campaign stood for."

On the campaign trail, Phillips remains laser-focused on arguing for Biden's weaknesses, which has become the defining message of his candidacy, while Williamson shares her vision of America and her desire to boost the middle class.

"I can beat Donald Trump, Joe Biden will not beat him. Now, the country doesn't know that yet because they don't know me well, but I promise you come June or July when the polls come out showing me beating Donald Trump and Joe Biden losing to him, the Democrats will have a choice," Phillips said during an event over the weekend in Hanover.

538's polling average shows that, broadly, Biden is ahead of both Phillips and Williamson by at least double digits. But some voters have taken to their message.

"I will be voting for Rep. Dean Phillips. What matters most to me is ensuring that Donald Trump is defeated in the general election, which I believe Joe Biden incapable of doing, primarily due to current polling data in swing states and my lack of faith in his ability to debate Donald Trump on stage," Noah Amidon, a Dartmouth student, told ABC News.

PHOTO: Democratic presidential candidates author Marianne Williamson and U.S. Representative Dean Phillips take part in the Democratic Candidate Debate at the NE College Convention 2024 in Manchester, New Hampshire, Jan. 8, 2024.   (Brian Snyder/Reuters)
PHOTO: Democratic presidential candidates author Marianne Williamson and U.S. Representative Dean Phillips take part in the Democratic Candidate Debate at the NE College Convention 2024 in Manchester, New Hampshire, Jan. 8, 2024. (Brian Snyder/Reuters)

Williamson, in her final pitch to voters on the night ahead of primary day, said "we need fundamental economic reform and that's really where America is today. Joe Biden for instance -- Joe Biden really wants to help people. He wants to help people survive what is inherently an unjust economic system. I want to end the injustice. It's not enough to just help people."

MORE: Biden's Democratic challengers hit ballot access roadblocks

Melinda LaBarge, a Williamson voter from Keene, has hinged her support for the candidate upon that economic message, especially when compared to Biden's approach, she said.

"She's right when she says the system as it is is not going to disrupt itself. And the economic inequality in our country that she's speaking about, I believe is probably our biggest issue that I do not feel President Biden or President Trump are addressing," LaBarge said at a Williamson event in Hooksett on Monday.

PHOTO: Democratic presidential hopeful Marianne Williamson speaks during a campaign event in Concord, New Hampshire, Jan. 17, 2024.  (Joseph Prezioso/AFP via Getty Images)
PHOTO: Democratic presidential hopeful Marianne Williamson speaks during a campaign event in Concord, New Hampshire, Jan. 17, 2024. (Joseph Prezioso/AFP via Getty Images)

Expectations for primary night

Despite the picture painted by the polls, the candidates are insistent that there's a path for them to break through in the largely independent state.

"I have a number, I have a general number," Williamson said of the expectations she has for her performance on primary night, nodding when asked by ABC News if she was looking for a finish in the double-digit range.

"But you know, it's interesting -- when I've talked to people over the last few days, so many people haven't even decided who they're voting for yet," Williamson said, though she noted that she wasn't distinctly targeting undecided voters over Democrats. (Independent voters can cast ballots in either the Republican or Democratic primary.)

David Fine of Portsmouth is a volunteer for Williamson and has been working for the campaign since July. He, too, said that one of the largest barriers to her success is name identification, despite her previous presidential run.

"Name recognition for Marianne is weak, was weak and it's still pretty weak. But I think it's going to change in a few days ... we got so many undecided people, this thing here could turn," he said at one of Williamson's events in Portsmouth.

Phillips told ABC News that he believes a win is finishing "in the 20s."

Top Biden surrogates have demurred at predicting a successful amount of write-in ballots for him.

"A win is a win, it means getting the most votes," California Rep. Ro Khanna said on Saturday.

ABC News' Zohreen Shah, Brittany Shepherd and Kelsey Walsh contributed to this report.

Biden has 2 primary challengers in New Hampshire: How Phillips and Williamson are campaigning originally appeared on abcnews.go.com