Democratic Party officials are gathering in the nation’s capital this week on a mission to revamp the top of their 2024 presidential nominating calendar, a move that could have far-reaching implications for the party far beyond their primary schedule in the next White House race.
On the agenda when the Democratic National Committee’s Rules and Bylaws Committee meets is whether Iowa and New Hampshire — which have held the first two contests in the DNC’s presidential and caucus program in half a century — will retain their traditional lead-off positions , or if the party wants to shake up the order and look to a more diverse state to start the cycle.
The meeting was originally scheduled to take place in early September, but was delayed until after the midterm elections due to concerns that changes to the calendar would potentially hurt Democrats facing re-election challenges. In recent days, DNC officials on the crucial panel have been bombarded with calls, texts and emails amid a deluge of public lobbying and behind-the-scenes jockeying.
For years, Democrats have slammed Iowa and New Hampshire as being unrepresentative of the party as a whole because they are largely white with few major urban areas, while the Democratic voting block has attracted more minorities over the past decades. Nevada and South Carolina — currently voting third and fourth on the calendar — are much more diverse than either Iowa or New Hampshire.
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To complicate matters, Nevada Democrats last year passed a bill that would turn the state’s presidential election into a primary and aimed to move the contest into the lead in the race for the White House, ahead of Iowa and New Hampshire. And compounding Iowa’s problems was the misreporting of the 2020 caucuses, which became a national embarrassment for Iowa Democrats as well as the DNC. Michigan and Minnesota are pushing to replace Iowa as the Midwest’s representative among the early voting, or so-called “carve out,” states.
Earlier this year, the DNC moved to require Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina to reapply for early statehood in the 2024 calendar year. Other states interested in moving up to the top of the calendar were also allowed to apply for an early position. The DNC is also considering allowing a fifth state to achieve “carve-out” status. The four existing early states plus 13 others are still in contention to land pre-window status.
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Democratic sources say it’s pretty clear Iowa will lose its position for three main reasons: First, it’s holding a caucus, not a primary, which the DNC has phased out in recent cycles. The delayed reporting of the 2020 presidential caucus results was a major embarrassment, and while Iowa was once a general election battleground, it has become increasingly red in recent years.
Nevada has made a big push to take Iowa’s place as the leading state, highlighting its diversity. But one problem is New Hampshire’s state law protecting its primary as the first in the nation, giving the secretary of state the power to move up the date of the contest to protect the primary tradition. A showdown would likely occur if the DNC kept New Hampshire second on the calendar but moved another state’s primary to the top of the order.
“The big questions for the committee to decide are whether New Hampshire or Nevada leads off the Democratic presidential nominating calendar and which Midwestern state — Michigan or Minnesota — replaces Iowa,” said a source familiar with rules and the rules committee’s thinking. to Fox News.
Regarding adding a fifth state to the group of early voting states, the source told Fox News “I don’t think there’s much of a desire for a fifth state in the carve-out calendar … it’s still on the table, but nobody is talking about it.”
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The Rules and Bylaws Committee meeting formally starts on Friday, and a decision is likely to come on Saturday.
Prior to the meeting, the most powerful actor in the process – President Biden – had not yet weighed in on the calendar.
The president is the titular leader of the Democratic Party, and sources say they expect him and his top advisers to have a voice in this process, but they do not expect any formal announcement from the White House.
But with Biden likely to seek a second term and a hotly contested presidential election unlikely if the president runs for re-election, any changes to the nominating calendar will no doubt be felt more in the 2028 cycle rather than in 2024.
Iowa Democratic Party Chairman Ross Wilburn argued in a letter to the Rules and Bylaws Committee on Monday that, as he fights to save his state’s front-runner position, there are issues of more consequence than the primary calendar at stake.
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“It’s critical that small, rural states like Iowa have a voice in our presidential nominating process. Democrats can’t give up an entire swath of voters in the heart of the Midwest without damaging the party for a generation. We need to win states like Iowa in order to increase our Democratic majority and win the White House,” Wilburn wrote.
But Mike Czin, a longtime Democratic strategist and veteran of former President Barack Obama’s 2012 re-election campaign and the Democratic National Committee, noted that “there are broader reasons for the party to move on from the Iowa caucus, and there are several states that can fill the important role.”
“Iowa had numerous opportunities to reform and improve their caucus election administration and they failed. It wasn’t just in 2020. They had problems for years. Their opportunity to modernize is over,” Czin said.
In New Hampshire, there is quiet confidence that they will retain their century-old role as the nation’s first president.
“We’ve said from the beginning that we feel New Hampshire will remain first in the nation,” longtime Democratic Party Chairman Ray Buckley told Fox News last week. “New Hampshire is doing a great job of hosting the first in the nation primary and should continue to do so. End of story.”
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As Democrats prepare to battle over their nominating calendar, there is little drama in the GOP.
The Republican National Committee voted earlier this year not to make any changes to their current order in Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina and Nevada leading out of their schedule.