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Biden touts veterans care in state he can’t afford to lose

New Hampshire trip comes after dispute over early primary finally settled

President Joe Biden meets with attendees following remarks about the PACT Act, a law that expanded health care access for veterans with injuries from toxic exposure, at the Westwood Park YMCA in Nashua, N.H., on Tuesday.
President Joe Biden meets with attendees following remarks about the PACT Act, a law that expanded health care access for veterans with injuries from toxic exposure, at the Westwood Park YMCA in Nashua, N.H., on Tuesday. (John Tully/Getty Images)

President Joe Biden was back in New Hampshire on Tuesday, weeks after his party finalized a plan to let the state’s Democrats actually participate at the August convention where he will be nominated for another term.

The visit, which highlighted veterans health care before Biden flew to Boston to raise campaign cash, comes as one poll shows Biden battling to win a state he carried easily in 2020, and with both of the state’s Democratically held House seats on the battlefield in November.

Speaking at the Westwood Park YMCA in Nashua to highlight the administration’s efforts to treat veterans for injuries caused by toxic exposure while serving, Biden announced the Department of Veterans Affairs processed 1 million claims under a law he signed in 2022 known as the PACT Act. 

“It’s a major milestone, providing $5.7 billion in benefits to 890,000 veterans and families so far in hand, including 3,000 here in New Hampshire,” Biden said. “It matters because too many servicemembers have not only braved the battlefield, but they [were] … breathing in toxic fumes from burn pits and other means.”

Biden also made an unannounced stop at a VFW Hall in Merrimack, where he had a sit-down conversation with Lisa Clark, a Department of Veterans Affairs volunteer and Air Force veteran herself, and also ran into some pro-Trump protesters, according to a pool report. 

Biden’s visit Tuesday marks his second trip to the state this year, after he didn’t campaign there ahead of the presidential primary. The Biden campaign eschewed the state after officials there moved forward with holding its primary on Jan. 23 despite the Democratic National Committee voting last year to make South Carolina’s primary in February the first in the presidential selection process this year.

Granite State Democrats launched a grassroots campaign urging people to write-in Biden and he easily won the primary, leading tensions to ease between the two camps. The DNC’s Rules and Bylaws Committee approved a plan last month to seat the state’s delegates at the Democratic convention in Chicago in August. 

Biden’s return comes as his campaign’s New Hampshire team has sought to build up their ground game, opening field offices around the state, which hasn’t voted for a Republican for president since 2000.

“Donald Trump is far out-of-step with the people of New Hampshire, from his plans to criminalize women for getting an abortion to his efforts to strip away Granite Staters’ health care – and the Biden-Harris campaign is building the infrastructure to engage voters across the state and reject Trump’s extremism for a third and final time,” Marisa Nahem, a spokesperson for Biden-Harris for New Hampshire, said in a statement. “With our fundamental freedoms, economy, and democracy on the ballot, we aren’t taking a single vote for granted.”

Biden won New Hampshire by 7 percentage points in 2020, but Hillary Clinton only won the state by 0.4 percentage points in 2016.

An NHJournal/Praecones Analytica poll of New Hampshire registered voters taken May 15-20 found Trump and Biden essentially tied. When asked how they would vote if the election were held today, 36.6 percent said they would vote for Trump while 36.5 percent said they would vote for Biden. Another 14.6 percent said they would vote for Robert F. Kennedy Jr., who has said he has gathered enough signatures to be on the ballot in the state, while 12.4 percent said none of those.

Other polls taken late last year and early this year showed Biden with a larger lead over Trump.

Members of Congress have also trekked to the Granite State in recent months as surrogates for Biden. Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar, who placed third in the state’s 2020 Democratic primary, traveled to the state last month. Delaware Sen. Chris Coons and Rep. Lisa Blunt Rochester, both of whom are Biden-Harris campaign co-chairs, also visited the state, as did Maryland Rep. Jamie Raskin. California Rep. Sara Jacobs was there last weekend.

Democrats are also preparing for two congressional races, including trying to hold on to the 2nd District after Rep. Ann McLane Kuster announced her retirement in March. The state is set to hold its congressional primaries on Sept. 10. 

Colin Van Ostern, who previously sat on the state’s Executive Council and ran unsuccessfully for governor in 2016, was quick to enter the race for the 2nd District and was backed by Kuster. State Sen. Becky Whitley is also running, as is Maggie Goodlander, a former White House senior adviser whose husband is Jake Sullivan, the national security adviser. Inside Elections with Nathan L. Gonzales rates the race as Likely Democratic. 

In the 1st District, at least three Republicans are running to challenge Democratic Rep. Chris Pappas. Inside Elections rates the race as Lean Democratic.

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