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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Don’t Sweat the 2024 Democratic Primary Calendar Reshuffle–For Now

As a big fan of boring process issues, I have been watching the DNC engineer a major change in the presidential primary calendar, and explained it at New York:

Amid wails of distress from Iowa and New Hampshire, the Democratic National Committee has formally ratified a change in the party’s 2024 presidential primary calendar. Since 1976, Iowa’s caucuses and New Hampshire’s primary were the opening events of the Democratic nominating process; in 2008 they were joined by Nevada’s caucuses in the third position and South Carolina’s primary in the fourth. Under the new calendar, Iowa is out of the early going; South Carolina will move ahead of New Hampshire; and Georgia and Michigan will be added to the early “window” of states allowed to hold primaries before March. The new order of states was recommended by the DNC’s Rules and Bylaws Committee in December after a push from the White House. The DNC will give Georgia and New Hampshire until June to come up with a plan for their primaries that complies with the new calendar; in both cases, the state Democratic Party needs cooperation from Republican lawmakers to execute the changes and may or may not succeed.

It’s important to understand that Republicans plan to stick with their old calendar, as they can.  Indeed, back in April 2022, the Republican National Committee voted to lock in the traditional early-state order (Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina, and Nevada) for 2024. And whatever the national parties decide, it’s state legislatures and parties that determine when primaries happen.

Odds are high that Democrats from Iowa and New Hampshire will hold unsanctioned 2024 contests. This will generate a lot of drama, but it probably won’t matter in this presidential cycle, assuming President Biden runs for renomination without significant opposition. The DNC has said it will revisit the calendar before the 2028 races, but it may signal an intention to preserve this year’s changes by placing heavy sanctions on states that go rogue (e.g., barring them from having delegations at the convention or sanctioning candidates that participate in unauthorized caucuses or primaries).

If, instead, national Democrats conclude that the 2024 reshuffling was just Biden’s way of rewarding the state that saved his bacon in the 2020 primaries (South Carolina) while punishing the states in which he finished fourth (Iowa) and fifth (New Hampshire), and making it even harder for anyone to challenge him, then all bets could be off for 2028. But displacing South Carolina from its new perch at the top of the calendar won’t be easy even with Biden having retired: As those who fought for so many years to displace Iowa can tell you, people will fight to stay No. 1.

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