Despite not being on the ballot, President Joe Biden won New Hampshire’s Democratic primary Tuesday as a write-in candidate, trouncing longshot challenger Rep. Dean Phillips, D-Minn. 

The Associated Press called the race at 8:07 p.m.

At 12:20 a.m. EST, with 87% of precincts reporting, Biden apparently had at least 50% and as much as 71% of the 104,500 votes cast, although many ballots were still categorized as “unprocessed write-in” votes. Phillips had 21.9% of the vote outright and author Marianne Williamson had 4.4%, according to Decision Desk HQ.

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This would be the first time Biden won the New Hampshire primary. In 2020, he was fifth place in the state, but came back in South Carolina and went on to win the nomination and presidency.

The Democratic National Committee made South Carolina, on Feb. 3, the first primary on its calendar. Although New Hampshire still held its Democratic primary, the contest awarded no delegates. The next contest after South Carolina is Nevada.

On the Republican side in New Hampshire, former President Donald Trump was leading former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley, also his first ambassador to the United Nations, by nearly 10 points in early returns. Trump’s other major GOP rivals dropped out of the race after his blowout win in last week’s Iowa caucuses.

Phillips hoped to emulate another Minnesota Democrat, then-Sen. Eugene McCarthy, an opponent of the Vietnam War who lost by only six points to the incumbent Democrat, President Lyndon B. Johnson, in the 1968 New Hampshire primary. The close contest prompted Johnson to bow out of his re-election bid. 

But Phillips didn’t close the gap. Nevertheless, he said before the primary that he would remain in the race. 

Biden supporters, fearing the president would be embarrassed in the state, launched a write-in campaign

Phillips challenged Biden to a debate in New Hampshire. Biden never campaigned.

However, Phillips and Williamson debated. Williamson, who ran in Democrats’ 2020 presidential primary, was an even more distant contender. 

Last year, environmentalists and lawyer Robert F. Kennedy Jr., the son of former Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy and a nephew of President John F. Kennedy, was slated to be in the Democratic primary. However, he dropped out to run as an independent.

Ken McIntyre contributed to this report, which has been updated with additional details and later results.

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