Democrats prepare to upend presidential primary calendar


States like Michigan and Minnesota are trying to push in, while Nevada is pushing for first-in-the-nation status over New Hampshire. The commission has still left open the possibility of adding a fifth calendar to the list, while also suggesting that two states could hold their games on the same day. It is unclear exactly how much will change. But there is at least one clear preference from many Democratic leaders both outside and within these party deliberations: that Iowa be dropped from its coveted first slot.

“I don’t think Iowa will stay and there is no reason for Iowa to stay,” said a Democrat familiar with the process of the DNC’s Rules and Bylaws Committee, the group charged with rearranging the calendar. “From an electoral standpoint, we’ve completely lost Iowa.”

The rules committee will meet again later this week in Washington, DC, to discuss the matter. According to sources familiar with the agenda, they are expected to submit a proposal for the 2024 presidential nomination calendar at the meeting, which will then be submitted to the full DNC for a vote in late January or early February.

But there is frustration among some DNC members about the silence from the White House.

“If the president says he wants this state or that state early on, I’ll support that because he’s the leader of the party and I can imagine any other.” [rules committee] member feels the same way,” said one DNC member, who was granted anonymity to speak candidly. “So it’s frustrating when we’ve invested all this time, energy and money into this whole process and the White House hasn’t given us anything, even though we’re only days away from making a decision.”

“It’s almost Kabuki theater,” the person continued.

Some of the unresolved questions facing the DNC were reshaped by the November interim results.

One is which state would replace Iowa, which represents the Midwestern region in the early state lineup. Both Michigan and Minnesota are seen as the leading contenders for the slot, positions further strengthened by November’s results. Democrats toppled both Michigan state legislatures and re-elected Governor Gretchen Whitmer, while Minnesota Democrats also gained trifecta control there by flipping the senate and re-electing Governor Tim Walz.

Those victories pave the way for both states to legally change the date of their primaries, removing logistical hurdles they would have faced without those results. Walz, along with other state leaders, sent a letter this month to DNC members reaffirming his state party’s commitment to pass such legislation, arguing that Minnesota “has a highly representative approach to the country combined with a robust state and local party infrastructure, an engaged electorate, and a logistical and financial advantage for campaigns.”

representative Debbie Dingell (D-Mich.), who has led her state’s charge to move up the nomination calendar, said in a letter to her state’s central committee that moving to the early window would make her “primary focus,” seeking their support for her bidding for an open seat on the DNC.

“Key groups that need to win over the Democrats and win national elections are the backbone of our state,” Dingell wrote in her letter. “Michigan is the most diverse state on the battlefield and a microcosm of America.”

Several DNC members said they think Michigan currently has an edge over Minnesota. But Michigan could face setbacks because of its larger size, some members said, as the committee has often argued at past meetings that states need to be small and accessible enough for lesser-known candidates to campaign and win.

“The big hesitation that those of us who are pro-Michigan will hear is, are they too big? Will they make the other three smaller? said another DNC member. “But Michigan did everything we told them to do to get in.”

Michigan supporters note that the state has several lower-cost media markets, such as Flint and Grand Rapids. But Detroit, a much larger market, would still need millions of dollars for presidential campaigns to make it known to voters.

Iowa, for its part, is still fighting. Iowa Democratic Party Chairman Ross Wilburn sent a letter Monday night to the Rules and Bylaws Committee outlining his party’s plans for a “mail-by-mail expression of presidential preference” — an effort to complicated and difficult caucus system that imploded in 2020, when attempts to tabulate the results on caucus night failed.

“It is critical that rural states like Iowa have a voice” and that the party “cannot fail an entire group of voters in the heart of the Midwest without harming the party for a generation,” Wilburn wrote in the letter, which was received by POLITICS.

But Iowa, a predominantly white state that is turning increasingly Republican, doesn’t fit well with the DNC’s criteria, which sought to prioritize racially, economically and geographically diverse states competitive in general elections.

That’s part of Nevada’s bid to beat New Hampshire should Iowa lose its influential spot at the top of the calendar. In a memo to DNC members, Nevada Democrats argued that its small but diverse population, as well as slim margins in general elections, prove its relevance to the early period.

“Nevada will help Democrats win future presidential elections more than any other state under consideration,” wrote Rebecca Lambe, a former top adviser to the late Senator Harry Reid (D-Nev.).

New Hampshire, meanwhile, can also claim that its small size and close general election history have produced strong presidential candidates for a century. It also relies heavily on its own state laws, which stipulate that it is the first primary state in the country and gives officials the freedom to change the primary date from year to year to ensure it stays that way.

Ray Buckley, chairman of the New Hampshire Democratic Party, told WMUR he doesn’t believe the committee will approve drastic changes based on “my conversations with members,” he said.

Whatever the DNC decides to do will represent a fundamental break with the Republicans after nearly two decades of a fairly pegged calendar.

Earlier this year, the Republican National Committee voted to reconfirm the current lineup of early states: Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina and Nevada. Should any state attempt to cross the line, the RNC would penalize those states by removing some of their delegates.

The Valley Voice
The Valley Voice
Christopher Brito is a social media producer and trending writer for The Valley Voice, with a focus on sports and stories related to race and culture.


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