Biden, Demoting Iowa and Prizing Diversity, Wants S.C. as First Primary
Katie Glueck and Reid J. Epstein, New York Times, December 1, 2022
President Biden and the Democratic National Committee are moving to radically reorder the party’s presidential process by making South Carolina the first primary state in 2024, followed in order by Nevada and New Hampshire, Georgia and then Michigan.
The plan, announced by party officials at a dinner Thursday in Washington, signals the end of Iowa’s long tenure as the Democrats’ first nominating contest, and it represents an effort to elevate the diverse, working-class constituencies that powered Mr. Biden’s primary victory in 2020.
The move would also be an unmistakable reward for South Carolina, the state that saved Mr. Biden’s candidacy two years ago after he came in fourth in Iowa and fifth in New Hampshire, both of which are smaller and have a higher percentage of white voters.
“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,” Mr. Biden wrote in a letter Thursday to members of the D.N.C.’s Rules and Bylaws Committee.
“Black voters in particular have been the backbone of the Democratic Party but have been pushed to the back of the early primary process,” he said. “We rely on these voters in elections but have not recognized their importance in our nominating calendar. It is time to stop taking these voters for granted, and time to give them a louder and earlier voice in the process.”
The letter went on to note bluntly, “Our party should no longer allow caucuses as part of our nominating process.” Iowa is a caucus state and does not hold a primary.
Iowa is still expected to remain the leadoff contest for Republicans, who have agreed to maintain the usual early-state order of Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina and Nevada.
Both Iowa and New Hampshire, whose famed diners and town commons are routinely overrun by candidates leading up to their nominating contests, have long promoted themselves as providing demanding tests of a candidate’s authenticity, preparedness and ability to connect in small gatherings with highly discerning voters.
The new Democratic plan, by elevating several larger states, could reduce those opportunities and lead candidates instead to emphasize expensive advertising campaigns aimed at the broadest possible audiences.
The proposal, reported first by The Washington Post, is subject to approval by the party’s Rules and Bylaws Committee and then by the full D.N.C. early next year, and there may be technical and legal considerations for some of the states.
Earlier this year, the committee adopted a framework that emphasized racial, ethnic, geographic and economic diversity and labor representation; raised questions about feasibility; and stressed the importance of general election competitiveness.