Democratic Party officials are huddling in the nation’s capital on Friday on a mission to revamp the top of their 2024 presidential nominating calendar, a move that could have major consequences for the party beyond their primary schedule in the next White House race.
On the eve of Democratic National Committee’s Rules and Bylaws Committee meeting Friday and Saturday, President Biden weighed in with his proposals for radically revamping the primary schedule, breaking with a half century of tradition.
Biden, who as the titular head of the Democratic Party is the most powerful player in the process, had kept quiet for weeks, but sources with knowledge of the Rules and Bylaws Committee’s workings confirmed to Fox News that the panel’s co-chairs on Thursday evening announced the president’s preferences during a private dinner.
The president’s proposal would see South Carolina lead off the 2024 Democratic presidential nominating calendar with a primary on Feb. 6, followed by New Hampshire and Nevada jointly holding their contests one week later, on Feb. 13, according to the sources. Georgia would vote on Feb. 20, followed by Michigan on Feb. 27. According to party rules, only states with special permission — known as carve out states — can hold nominating contests before the DNC’s primary window begins in March of a presidential election year.
DEMOCRATS ON VERGE OF UPENDING THEIR PRESIDENTIAL PRIMARY CALENDAR
Biden’s plan is a dramatic shift from the current calendar, which has seen Iowa and New Hampshire for half a century hold the first two lead-off contests in both the Democratic and Republican Party schedules.
The Republican National Committee voted earlier this year to make no changes to their current order of Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina and Nevada leading off their schedule.
For years, Democrats have knocked Iowa and New Hampshire as being unrepresentative of the party as a whole for being largely White with few major urban areas, while the Democratic voting bloc has attracted more minorities over the past several decades. Nevada and South Carolina — which currently vote third and fourth in the calendar — are much more diverse than either Iowa or New Hampshire.
GOP STICKS WITH TRADITION AS RNC MAKES NO CHANGES TO PRESIDENTIAL NOMINATING CALENDAR
Complicating matters, Nevada Democrats last year passed a bill into law that would transform the state’s presidential caucus into a primary and aimed to move the contest to the lead-off position in the race for the White House, ahead of Iowa and New Hampshire. Compounding Iowa’s issues was the botched reporting 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 Midwestern representative among the early voting states.
Earlier this year, the DNC moved to require Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina to reapply for early state status in the 2024 calendar. Other states interested in moving up to the top of the calendar also were allowed to apply for an early position. The DNC is also considering allowing a fifth state to obtain carve-out status. The four existing early states plus 13 others are still in contention to land pre-window status.
South Carolina, a red state where Black voters play a major role in Democratic primaries, gave Biden his first victory in the 2020 nomination race. After disappointing fourth and fifth place finishes in Iowa and New Hampshire, Biden rebounded with a distant second place finish to Sen. Bernie Sanders in Nevada’s caucuses before his landslide victory in the South Carolina primary propelled him to the Democratic nomination and eventually the White House.
“We must ensure that voters of color have a voice in choosing our nominee much earlier in the process and throughout the entire early window,” Biden emphasized in a letter to DNC members. “As I said in February 2020, you cannot be the Democratic nominee and win a general election unless you have overwhelming support from voters of color — and that includes Black, Brown and Asian American & Pacific Islander voters.”
DEMOCRATS PUNT ON UPENDING 2024 NOMINATING CALENDAR UNTIL AFTER MIDTERMS
And the president, in his letter, also reiterated the push by the national party to scrap caucuses, writing, “our party should no longer allow caucuses as part of our nominating process…. It should be our party’s goal to rid the nominating process of restrictive, anti-worker caucuses.”
However, Democratic elected and party officials in Iowa and New Hampshire pilloried the president’s proposal.
Iowa Democratic Party chair Ross Wilburn, as he fights to save his state’s lead off position, argued that there are issues more consequential than the primary calendar at play.
“Small rural states like Iowa must have a voice in our Presidential nominating process. Democrats cannot forget about entire groups of voters in the heart of the Midwest without doing significant damage to the party for a generation,” Wilburn charged in statement.
Additionally, he warned that “our state law requires us to hold a caucus before the last Tuesday in February, and before any other contest.”
New Hampshire Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, the all-Democrat congressional delegation’s senior member and a former governor, slammed Biden’s proposal as “short-sighted.” Shaheen pointed to the state’s famed small scale retail politics that gives all presidential contenders – regardless of their fundraising prowess or fame – “a fair shot” and argued that “it’s tremendously disappointing that the President failed to understand the unique role that New Hampshire plays in our candidate selection process as the first primary state.”
Additionally, the senator warned that “as frustrating as this decision is, it holds no bearing over when we choose our primary date: New Hampshire’s State law stipulates that we will hold the ‘First-in-the-Nation’ primary. That status remains unchanged as we are bound by State statute.”
This is far from the first time New Hampshire’s cherished first-in-the-nation status has been threatened. Most recently, in 2007 several states tried to leapfrog New Hampshire, but the Granite State successfully kept its lead-off slot.
If New Hampshire or Iowa do move up the dates of their contests, the national party could penalize them by the states by stripping them of some of their delegates to the 2024 Democratic National Convention.
The decision from the Rules and Bylaws Committee is expected to come on Saturday, and will have to be ratified by the entire DNC membership early next year, but as the leader of the party, insiders say it would be a surprise if Biden’s proposal was not adopted.
However, for Republican governors and state legislatures in Georgia and New Hampshire, and a new GOP governor in Nevada, it is far from a done deal that the states will go along with Biden’s proposal.
New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu emphasized Friday in a statement that “the good news is that our primary will still be first and the nation will not be held to a substandard process dictated by Joe Biden and the Democrat Party.”