Joe Biden drops Iowa and pushes South Carolina as first primary state of 2024

Joe Biden drops Iowa and pushes South Carolina as first primary state of 2024

  • US News
  • December 2, 2022
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President Joe Biden recommends the Democratic National Committee make South Carolina the first state to vote in the 2024 presidential primary and strip Iowa of early voting state status entirely.

Biden’s decision made New Hampshire Democrats — who see the nation’s first primary as a state law issue — and Nevada Democrats, who had garnered significant support from progressives and black, Latino, and Asian American Democratic groups for their own bid, angry vote first.

“Like my administration, the Democratic Party has worked hard to reflect the diversity of America — but our nomination process does not,” Biden wrote in a letter to members of the DNC’s Rules and Bylaws Committee, which is tasked with making a decision on the voting order this weekend. “For fifty years, the first month of our presidential nomination process has been a valuable part of our democratic process, but it’s time to update the process for the 21st century. I am committed to working with the DNC to make this happen.”

The White House plans to vote in South Carolina first, followed by New Hampshire and Nevada a week later, with Michigan and Georgia occupying two final early voting slots. Iowa would not be among the states with early voting. The decision was first reported by the Washington Post.

The recommended changes would complete a slow reshaping of the presidential primary that has been underway since the 2000s, when Nevada and South Carolina first joined Iowa and New Hampshire as early-vote states. The new list of states will be significantly more diverse — South Carolina and Georgia’s Democratic electorates are dominated by black voters — and will include major metropolitan areas like Detroit and Atlanta for the first time.

Biden also recommends abolishing caucuses, which many state Democratic parties had already abandoned. Voting rights advocates and progressives have long complained that caucuses — in which attendees have to wait hours for their votes to be counted — erect unnecessary barriers to participation and also lower turnout.

Biden also suggested that this new order should not be permanent. Given the likelihood of Biden running for re-election in 2024 with little intraparty opposition, the calendar may not matter much. “The Rules and Bylaws Committee should review the calendar every four years to ensure it continues to reflect the values ​​and diversity of our party and our country,” Biden wrote.

It’s clear that Biden is rewarding his friends with the decision as much as he’s trying to diversify the primary: His political comeback in 2020 began with a massive win in South Carolina just weeks after he finished fifth in Iowa’s ailing 2020 caucuses was a buggy app that made it difficult to track results.

Iowa and New Hampshire have dominated the early part of the presidential election schedule since the 1970s, and black and Latino Democrats have long complained about the outsized influence bestowed on two lily-white states.

Iowa’s status as a caucus state and its 2020 fiasco made it clear that if the DNC made a decision, Iowa would lose power. But New Hampshire — the nation’s fourth whitest state — hadn’t done anything like it to deserve such a demotion.

Ray Buckley, the leader of the New Hampshire Democratic Party, was quick to issue a statement reiterating that there is nothing the DNC can do to prevent the state from voting first.

“The DNC didn’t give New Hampshire the nation’s first primary, and it’s not their place to take it away,” he said. “Obviously this news is disappointing but we will be holding our primary first. We have survived past trials over the decades and we will survive this. Our first elementary school in the nation has been an integral part of our state’s history and enshrined in state law for over 100 years.”

Two New Hampshire Senators, Democrats Jeanne Shaheen and Maggie Hassan, also issued statements blasting the decision. Shaheen called the decision “short-sighted” and Hassan called it “misguided”.

Michigan Democrats praised the decision. “We have always said that every route to the White House leads through the heartland, and President Biden understands that,” Michigan Democratic Party leader Lavora Barnes and Rep. Debbie Dingell said in a statement.

The addition of Georgia and Michigan could also dramatically reshape the presidential calendar. Though states are scheduled to vote fourth and fifth, respectively, the sheer number of delegates they award means candidates will likely visit them from the start of each campaign.

In 2020, Michigan awarded 125 delegates and Georgia 105 delegates. For comparison, Nevada, New Hampshire, and South Carolina combined received only 114 delegates.

Nevada Democrats, who had pushed to vote first, did not immediately respond to Biden’s decision. The state, one of the most diverse in the nation, has a significant black population, a large Latino population, and a rapidly growing Asian American community. The Congressional Black Caucus, the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, and the Chairman of the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus all supported the state’s vote-first effort.

The DNC’s Rules and Bylaws Committee will vote this weekend, followed by a DNC-wide vote in February. It is unlikely that either group will make any major changes to the White House request.

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