WASHINGTON — Despite objections from some Democratic state leaders, the Democratic National Committee moved closer Friday to implementing President Biden’s vision to radically overhaul the party’s 2024 presidential primary process, as a key committee voted to recommend sweeping changes to the schedule.
At a day-long meeting of the DNC Rules and Regulations Committee in a Washington hotel ballroom, members voted to recommend supporting a 2024 Democratic presidential primary schedule that would begin in South Carolina on February 3, followed by New Hampshire and Nevada on February 6. Georgia on February 13, then Michigan on February 27.
That plan mirrored a framework Mr. Biden presented to the committee on Thursday that emphasized racial and geographic diversity. Representatives from Iowa and New Hampshire voted against the proposal, and officials stressed that the rules committee’s decision was a step in what could still be a protracted and contentious process. The first proposed states have until Jan. 5 to confirm they can hold a primary on their assigned date.
The recommendation, which upends the traditional Democratic order in Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina, must be confirmed by the full DNC at a meeting in early February, but Mr. Biden carry enormous weight with the party committee.
The proposed new order rewards some of the states that propelled his political rise in 2020, elevating diverse, working-class and, in some cases, more moderate constituencies that were vital to Mr. Biden’s primary victory. At the same time, smaller states that have long emphasized retail policy — Iowa and New Hampshire — would be diminished.
“Given the president’s strong interest in designing the 2024 primaries and their dates, I think it’s clear he’s running,” said James Roosevelt Jr., co-chair of the rules and regulations committee, which said he had spoken with Mr. Biden this week about the order of the first states.
Mr Biden said he intended to run again but planned to discuss the race with his family. If he doesn’t run, the timeline, if passed, would help other candidates with strong support from voters of color who make up the backbone of the Democratic Party.
Black voters made up more than half of Democrats who voted in South Carolina’s 2020 primary, according to exit polls. And they make up a significant portion of the primary electors in Georgia and Michigan. Latino voters play a particularly central role in Nevada.
But the change could also hurt candidates without the campaign money to compete quickly in early states with expensive media markets — like Nevada, Georgia and even New Hampshire, where Boston TV stations are driving up bids. prices. The fast pace of the proposed schedule could force candidates with smaller bank accounts to choose to compete in one or two of the top three states.
“One of the things New Hampshire is known for is our retail policy and candidates having the opportunity to engage the electorate face to face,” said New Hampshire DNC member Joanne Dowdell, who s is opposed to the proposal. “Having three states, one on top of the other, I think causes a bit of a conflict for candidates trying to compete for attention, gain name recognition and also collect funds.”
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Jeff Link, a longtime Des Moines operative, said excluding the Iowa caucuses from the Democratic presidential nomination process would diminish the importance of the organization, which is central to the political culture of the state. State.
It could prove detrimental to the party nationwide, he said, by eliminating a critical testing ground for Democratic frontline workers.
“Rather than having a big on-the-ground operation, they’re going to have a big social media operation,” Mr Link said. “There will be fewer people talking to other people during the campaign. One of the benefits of having an early caucus is that for three decades we have been training campaign staff on how to organize on a person-to-person basis.
Other objections were much stronger, especially from the two states accustomed to being in the lead.
New Hampshire has long held the nation’s first primary under state law, and state officials have said they intend to follow that law rather than any party decision. And the Iowa Democratic Party chairman noted in a statement that the country’s longtime caucus state has a law that “requires us to hold a caucus before the last Tuesday in February and before any other contests.” The decision on the timing would be up to the state’s central committee and elected officials, said Scott Brennan, a member of the Iowa rules committee.
More than political clout and bragging rights are at stake: Studies of the economic impact of past caucuses in the Iowa and New Hampshire primaries have found spending in the hundreds of millions of dollars, much of it on TV ads, though the numbers were a drop in the bucket of each state’s annual economic activity.
The party has powerful tools to coerce states into alignment.
The DNC rules agreed to earlier this year stipulated notable consequences for any state that rushes to operate outside the first party-agreed window, including reductions in the number of promised delegates and alternates for the state in question. . Significantly, candidates campaigning in those states would also face repercussions.
“If a candidate chose to campaign in a state that operated outside the window, he would lose that state’s delegates,” Roosevelt said. “They could have other sanctions, because the president is empowered to go beyond that.”
Some officials have hinted that they are willing to take these risks.
“For decades, we said we would support any penalty,” said Raymond Buckley, chairman of the New Hampshire Democratic Party.
Republican willingness, or lack thereof, to change the dates may also be relevant in several states, including Republican-controlled Georgia. A spokesman for Governor Brian Kemp did not respond to a question Friday afternoon about his reaction to the Democratic proposal. The first date is set by Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, who declined to comment on the Democrats’ process on Friday.
“We are focused on the security and integrity of the election that is currently underway, and we will review the entire process for possible improvements once it is successfully completed,” said Secretary Jordan Fuchs. of Deputy State, as Georgia hosts a Senate Runoff. But, she noted in a statement, “Our legal team has consistently stated that both parties’ primaries should be held on the same day and should not cost anyone delegates.”
Republicans have already agreed to their own lineup from the early states of Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina and Nevada.
The rules and regulations committee vote came a day after Mr Biden sent a letter to members outlining his criteria for the early voting window. In it, he dismissed the caucuses — effectively dealing a mortal blow to the struggling Iowa caucuses, which have struggled for days to deliver results in 2020.
After Mr. Biden came fourth in Iowa and fifth in New Hampshire, two states with high percentages of white voters, he showed new signs of political life in Nevada. And it was the South Carolina primary, with large numbers of black voters, that revived his candidacy and propelled him through Super Tuesday and into the nomination.
“Defense, education, agriculture, manufacturing — South Carolina is a perfect laboratory,” said Rep. James E. Clyburn, the South Carolina Democrat whose endorsement of Mr. Biden in 2020 played a vital role in the President’s victory in the state. “That’s why people who do well in South Carolina end up doing pretty well overall.”
Mr Clyburn said he had urged Mr Biden to keep South Carolina in the state’s first window – “first, second, third or fourth, it didn’t matter to me” — but that he had learned of the state’s possible elevation at the president’s kickoff primary on Thursday.
Jaime Harrison, the DNC chairman, also from South Carolina, said he discovered it at Thursday night’s state dinner.
Mr Biden urged the rules and regulations committee to review the timeline every four years, and the committee passed an amendment to start that process.
“Nevada still has the strongest case for being the nation’s first primary,” state senators Catherine Cortez Masto and Jacky Rosen said in a joint statement. “We will continue to make our case for 2028.”
Reid J. Epstein contributed reporting from New Orleans, Lisa Lerer of New York, and Travel Gabriel from Des Moines.