Dems reshuffle primaries to stress diversity over tradition
The Democratic Party on Saturday approved reordering its 2024 presidential primary, replacing Iowa with South Carolina in the leadoff spot as part of a major shake-up meant to empower Black and other minority voters critical to its base of support.
Although more changes are possible later this year, the formal endorsement by the Democratic National Committee during its meeting in Philadelphia is an acknowledgement that the start of the 2024 primary will look very different from the one in 2020. Hundreds of party stalwarts climbed to their feet and cheered after the easy passage by voice vote.
States with early contests play a major role in determining the nominee because White House hopefuls struggling to raise money or gain political traction often drop out before visiting states outside the first five. Media attention and policy debates concentrate in those areas, too.
The new plan was championed by President Joe Biden, who is expected to formally announce his reelection campaign in the coming months. The reconfiguring would have South Carolina hold its primary on Feb. 3, followed three days later by New Hampshire and Nevada, which is swapping the caucus it used to hold in favor of a primary.
Georgia would vote fourth on Feb. 13, followed by Michigan on Feb. 27, with much of the rest of the nation set to vote on Super Tuesday in early March.
“The Democratic Party looks like America and so does this proposal,” said DNC chair Jaime Harrison, a South Carolinian. The change “continues to make us stronger and elevates the backbone of our party,” he said.
Biden wrote the DNC rules committee in December, saying, “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.” That committee approved the new lineup, setting up Saturday's vote.
The move remakes the current calendar, which saw Iowa start with its caucus, followed by New Hampshire and then Nevada and South Carolina. The Republican Party has voted not to change its 2024 primary order, meaning the campaign has already began in Iowa.
“The DNC has decided to break a half-century precedent and cause chaos by altering their primary process, and ultimately abandoning millions of Americans in Iowa and New Hampshire,” Republican National Committee chair Ronna McDaniel said in a statement Saturday.
Four of the first five new states under Democrats' new plan are battlegrounds, meaning the eventual party winner would be able to lay groundwork in important general election spots. That's especially true for Michigan and Georgia, both of which voted for Republican Donald Trump in 2016 before flipping to Biden in 2020.