January 30, 2023

Dems are moving to make South Carolina, not Iowa, a first-ballot state

WASHINGTON (AP) — Democrats voted Friday to remove Iowa as the leadoff state on the presidential candidate calendar and replace it with South Carolina starting in 2024, winning a dramatic shakeup for President Joe Biden. The party must better reflect its deeply diverse electorate.

The rule-making division of the Democratic National Committee took action to eliminate Iowa From the position it held for five decades after technological disruptions fueled chaos And the state’s 2020 caucus results are skewed. Change also comes after long pressure Some of the party’s top leaders are beginning to pick presidents in states with a minority of whites, especially given the emphasis on black voters, the Democrats’ most loyal electoral base.

A debate over prioritizing diversity drew an emotional reaction at a committee meeting in Washington, with DNC Chair Jaime Harrison wiping away tears as committee member Donna Brazile said Democrats had spent years failing to fight for black voters: “You know what? A dirt road? Do you know what it’s like trying to find clean water?

“Do you know what it’s like to wait and see if the storm is going to pass you and your roof is still intact?” Brazil asked. “That’s what it’s all about.”

The committee approved moving South Carolina’s primary to February 3, and Nevada and New Hampshire voting three days later. Georgia will go next week and Michigan two weeks later.

The move marks a dramatic shift from the current calendarIt has held First-Nation caucuses in Iowa since 1972, followed by First-Nation caucuses in New Hampshire since 1920. Nevada and South Carolina were the last Democratic contests since the 2008 presidential election. A major change in their primary calendar.

The changes still need to be approved by the full DNC in a vote early next year, but it will almost certainly follow the rulemaking committee’s lead.

A reshuffled schedule could largely be discussed for 2024 if Biden seeks a second term, but could remake Democratic presidential cycles after that. The president has said for months that he wants to run again, and while no final decision has been made, White House aides have begun staff discussions for his re-election campaign.

The DNC plans to revise the primary calendar again before 2028 — meaning more changes could come before then.

Biden wrote a letter to members of the Rules Committee On Thursday the party said it would do away with “restricted” caucuses altogether, as their rules on in-person participation can sometimes exclude working-class and other voters. He also privately told party leaders that he wanted to look to South Carolina first to ensure that voters of color were not marginalized as Democrats chose their presidential nominee.

Four of the five states that are set to begin their party primaries are presidential battlegrounds, meaning the eventual Democratic winner could build a base in key general election constituencies. This is especially true for Michigan and Georgia, both of which voted for Donald Trump in 2016 and flipped to Biden in 2020. The exception is South Carolina, which hasn’t gone Democratic in a presidential election since 1976.

The top five voting states will go to the polls before Super Tuesday, the day the rest of the country holds primary elections. That gives early states more leverage as White House hopefuls struggle to raise money or gain political traction, often leaving before moving on to other parts of the country.

Rules Committee member Scott Brennan of Iowa said “small, rural states” should “have a voice in the presidential nominating process.”

“Democrats cannot forget entire swathes of voters in the Midwest without doing significant damage to the party in new generations,” Brennan said.

The Republican National Committee has already decided to hold Iowa’s caucus as the first contest in the 2024 presidential election, guaranteeing GOP White House hopefuls — including Trump. – They are often campaigning there.

House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn, South Carolina’s only congressional Democrat and one of Biden’s top supporters in Congress, said the president called him Thursday to inform him of his motivation to boost his state.

“I didn’t ask to be first,” Clyburn said. “His idea was to be first.”

Clyburn’s endorsement of Biden in 2020 boosted the candidate’s flagging presidential campaign just before the South Carolina primary, where he won big. It helped Biden shake off early losses Iowa, New Hampshire and Nevada eventually captured the White House.

“He knows what South Carolina has done for him, and he’s proven that over and over again by giving South Carolina respect,” Clyburn said.

However, the Rules Committee’s vote faced a severe backlash, with some states pledging to boycott the changes altogether. That’s despite committee language agreeing that states could lose all their delegates to the party’s national convention if they try to defy the new rules.

Iowa and New Hampshire have said laws in their states take precedence over others, and they want to abide by those, not DNC ​​mandates. Only committee members from Iowa and New Hampshire opposed the proposal that passed Friday, while all others supported it.

Nevada, which has a large Hispanic population, was the first to avoid sharing second place with New Hampshire, 2,500 miles away. Nevada committee member Arty Blanco’s voice broke as he argued against the change.

“If we want to build a stronger relationship with Latinos, Nevada needs to stand alone on a date, not share that date,” Blanco said.

After further debate, Blanco later said he supported the new calendar. He said it was “not ideal” for his state to go to another on the same day, but “we accept what the president wants.”

Harrison said the new slate of five early voting states must show they are working to move their primaries to those dates early next year or risk losing their seats. Some state legislatures set primary dates; Others require their state secretaries or directors of their state parties to do so.

The DNC chair choked up after the vote as she talked about South Carolina being the site of the Civil War’s first offensive and now being in line to continue her party’s primary.

“This motion represents the best of our party as a whole, and it will continue to strengthen our party and our country,” Harrison said.


Associated Press writer Meg Kinnard contributed from Columbia, SC