Biden proposes putting South Carolina first in Democratic primary process, bumping Iowa




  • In Politics
  • 2022-12-02 01:02:30Z
  • By USA TODAY

President Joe Biden is recommending a massive overhaul of the presidential nominating calendar, calling for South Carolina to replace Iowa in the leadoff position and elevate Michigan and Georgia into the mix.

Biden has proposed that South Carolina, New Hampshire, Nevada, Georgia and Michigan make up the early voting window.

Scott Brennan, a member of the Democratic National Committee's Rules and Bylaws Committee confirmed the proposed changes to the Des Moines Register Thursday. The committee met privately in Washington, D.C., before public meetings began Friday where the committee leaders briefed the members.

"Our party should no longer allow caucuses as part of our nominating process," Biden said in a letter to the committee. "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."

President Joe Biden speaks during the White House Conference on Hunger, Nutrition, and Health, at the Ronald Reagan Building, Wednesday, Sept.
President Joe Biden speaks during the White House Conference on Hunger, Nutrition, and Health, at the Ronald Reagan Building, Wednesday, Sept.  

The moves would displace Iowa from its decades-long position at the front of the line and elevate new voices into the early voting window - a decision that, if approved, would upend 50 years of political precedent and remake the way America picks its presidents.

"These are only recommendations and we will continue to fight for Iowa's place in the nominating process," Brennan said.

The DNC's Rules and Bylaws Committee, which meets through Saturday in Washington, D.C., still needs to approve the proposal before it can head to a vote of the full DNC early next year.

But already, New Hampshire, which has a state law mandating it hold the nation's first primary election, is saying it will go rogue.

"The DNC did not give New Hampshire the first-in-the-nation primary and it is not theirs to take away," New Hampshire Democratic Party Chair Ray Buckley released the following statement. "This news is obviously disappointing, but we will be holding our primary first. We have survived past attempts over the decades and we will survive this."

Since 1972, Iowa has wielded unparalleled influence in that process, drawing presidential contenders of every stripe to campaign across the state for months and participate in its first-in-the-nation caucuses. Made famous by Jimmy Carter in 1976, Iowa has acted as a proving ground for would-be presidents to test their mettle, courting votes one by one under intense media scrutiny.

In recent years, Iowa has come under fire from critics who argue that its population, which is overwhelmingly white, is not representative of the nation at large, making it ill-equipped to hold such an important role in the nominating process.

Criticism intensified when Iowa Democrats failed to report accurate, timely results from their 2020 caucuses, adding fuel to those underlying concerns and undermining the public's confidence in the state.  

With South Carolina in the leadoff role and two new states in the mix, that power dynamic would shift in a way that committee members say gives greater voice to people who have traditionally been marginalized in the electoral process. Elevating those voices is key to ensuring the Democratic Party represents the changing face of the electorate, they say.

The DNC's decision is not expected to immediately affect the order of Republican primaries, which have already been set for 2024 with Iowa at the front. But it does open the door to future jockeying between states as the GOP wrangles with the implications for their own early contests.

Though the decision would be a blow for Iowa, few expected the state to hold onto its position after its 2020 debacle. Iowa Democratic activists and party leaders conceded that retaining any role in the early voting window would have been a victory for the state party.

But committee members have made clear since they began meeting in January that it would be difficult for Iowa to make its case.

They've said they prefer states that hold state-run primary elections over caucuses, have a diverse electorate and are competitive general election battlegrounds. States must also be able to legally and quickly move the date of the primary elections, they said.

"While there are some benefits to caucuses, I think it is hard to argue that primaries don't bring more voices into the process. And I think that is a key value of the Democratic Party," DNC member Mo Elleithee said in the committee's first meeting.

In April the committee approved a plan requiring states to submit applications to hold a nominating contest in the early voting window before Super Tuesday. It also said it would accept as many as five states into that window. For years, Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina held those coveted positions.

Committee members heard presentations in June from more than a dozen states and territories who submitted applications.

Nevada and New Hampshire made particularly impassioned cases, expressly arguing that they should take over as the first primary state. Others, like Michigan and Minnesota, pushed to join the early window for the first time.

But the committee chose to delay its decision, originally slated for August, until after the November midterm elections.

They started gathering in Washington, D.C. for a private dinner Thursday evening, and began public meetings Friday morning.

Late Thursday, POLITICO reported that the White House had weighed in with the committee on behalf of Michigan, boosting them into the early window.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Biden proposes putting South Carolina first in primary process, bumping Iowa

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