Dems Move to Make South Carolina First Primary Voting State

Scott Brennan, of Iowa, speaks in opposition to proposed changes to the primary system during a Democratic National Committee Rules and Bylaws Committee meeting to discuss President Joe Biden’s presidential primary lineup at the Omni Shoreham Hotel on Friday, Dec. 2, 2022, in Washington. (AP Photo/Nathan Howard)

WASHINGTON (AP/Hamodia) — Democrats voted Friday to remove Iowa as the leadoff state on the presidential nominating calendar and replace it with South Carolina starting in 2024, a dramatic shakeup championed by President Joe Biden, which he says better reflects party’s diverse electorate.

The Democratic National Committee’s rule-making arm made the move to strip Iowa from the position it has held for five decades after technical meltdowns sparked chaos and marred results of the state’s 2020 caucus. The change also comes after a long push by some of the party’s top leaders to start choosing a president in states that are less white, especially given the importance of Black voters as Democrats’ most loyal electoral base.

The committee approved moving South Carolina’s primary to Feb. 3 and having Nevada and New Hampshire vote three days later. Georgia would go the following week and Michigan two weeks after that.

The move marks a dramatic shift from the current calendar, which has had Iowa holding the first-in-the-nation caucuses since 1972, followed by New Hampshire’s first-in-the-nation primary since 1920. Nevada and South Carolina have gone next since the 2008 presidential election, when Democrats last did a major overhaul of their primary calendar.

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

The revamped schedule could largely be moot for 2024 if Biden opts to seek a second term, but may remake Democratic presidential cycles after that. The president has said for months that he intends to run again, and White House aides have begun making staffing discussions for his likely reelection campaign, even though no final decision has been made.

The DNC also plans to revisit the primary calendar again before 2028 — meaning more changes could be coming before then.

Biden wrote in a letter to rules committee members on Thursday that the party should scrap “restrictive” caucuses altogether because their rules on in-person participation can sometimes exclude working-class and other voters. He told also told party leaders privately that he’d like to see South Carolina go first to better ensure that voters of color aren’t marginalized as Democrats choose a presidential nominee.

Biden handily carried South Carolina in the 2020 presidential primary, winning by a 29 point margin over the second-place candidate Bernie Sanders.

Scott Brennan, a rules committee member from Iowa, said “small, rural states” like his “must have a voice in the presidential nominating process.”

“Democrats cannot forget about entire groups of voters in the heart of the Midwest without doing significant damage to the party in newer generations,” Brennan said.

The Republican National Committee has already decided to keep Iowa’s caucus as the first contest in its 2024 presidential primary, ensuring that GOP White House hopefuls — which include Trump — have continued to frequently campaign there.

Nevada, with its heavily Hispanic population, initially balked at sharing the second-place slot with New Hampshire, a state 2,500 miles away. Nevada committee member Artie Blanco’s voice cracked as she argued against the change.

“If we want to build a strong relationship with Latinos,” Blanco said, “then Nevada must stand alone on a date and not have to share that date.”

After more discussion, Blanco said later that she would support the new calendar. It was “not ideal” for her state to go the same day as another, she said, but “we accept what the will of the president is.”

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