Newsman: President Joe Biden is calling for upending Democrats’ presidential primary calendar, elevating South Carolina to the first spot, moving the swing states of Georgia and Michigan up to the early slate, and putting Iowa back in the pack. In a letter to the Democratic National Committee’s Rules and Bylaws Committee, endorsing an overhaul of the calendar, Joe Biden stressed the party’s diversity. But the New Hampshire Democratic Party reacted swiftly to Biden’s plan, calling it “obviously disappointing” but added: “we will be holding our primary first.”
“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,” Biden wrote.
Biden also called on the committee to review the calendar every four years in order to “ensure that it continues to reflect the values and diversity of our party and country.”
Word of Biden’s proposal came out Thursday evening, ahead of a Democratic Party gathering to vote to shake up the order of states on the 2024 nomination calendar
But the New Hampshire Democratic Party reacted swiftly to Biden’s plan, calling it “obviously disappointing” but added: “we will be holding our primary first.”
For decades, presidential hopefuls have faced their first tests with voters in the heavily white states of Iowa and New Hampshire.
The president is calling for South Carolina — a state with a sizable Black population, which notably turned around his fortunes in the 2020 race — to go first, followed in the early window by New Hampshire and Nevada, then Georgia and Michigan.
Biden’s letter to the DNC didn’t mention his specific proposal for states.
“For decades, 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 wrote. “We rely on these voters in elections but have not recognized their importance in our nominating calendar. It is time to stop taking these votes for granted, and time to give them a louder and earlier voice in the process.”
Biden added Democrats should “no longer allow caucuses as part of our nominating process,” a foundational principle that the Rules and Bylaws Committee, which has been overseeing the process of states submitting proposals to hold early contests, had set in weighing which states to elevate.
Iowa holds caucuses, and Nevada recently moved away from them.
President’s plan, which was revealed to party members but not released publicly, was first reported by The Washington Post. Scott Brennan, an Iowan and member of the Democratic National Committee’s Rules and Bylaws Committee, confirmed the proposed changes to Iowa Public Radio’s Clay Masters.
The committee, which meets Friday through Saturday in Washington, D.C., still needs to approve the proposal before the full DNC votes on it early next year.
New Hampshire says it’s still going first
The New Hampshire Democratic Party reacted swiftly to Biden’s plan, calling it “obviously disappointing” but added: “we will be holding our primary first.”
“The DNC did not give New Hampshire the first-in-the-nation primary and it is not theirs to take away,” NHDP Chair Ray Buckley said in a statement. “We have survived past attempts over the decades and we will survive this.”
New Hampshire’s Democratic U.S. senators opposed the Biden proposal, with Jeanne Shaheen saying that it is “tremendously disappointing that the President failed to understand the unique role that New Hampshire plays in our candidate selection process as the first primary state.”
Said Sen. Maggie Hassan: “Because of our state’s small size, candidates from all walks of life — not just the ones with the largest war chests — are able to compete and engage in the unique retail politics that are a hallmark of our state. This ensures that candidates are battle-tested and ready to compete for our nation’s highest office.”
Hassan added that “New Hampshire’s law is clear and our primary will continue to be First in the Nation.”
Generations of voters in New Hampshire have treated the ability to kick the tires of presidential candidates as their political birthright. The state has a law on the books giving the secretary of state the power to move up the date of the primary to protect its first-in-the-nation status. (Iowa holds the first caucuses.)
Tom Perez, a former DNC chair, told NPR in an interview prior to the release of Biden’s plan that there could be consequences if states were to disregard the DNC and hold their contest first anyway.
“If the state decides, to heck with what the DNC said, they do that at their peril,” Perez said.
That peril involves the DNC not seating delegates of states that ran afoul of party rules at the nominating convention — a major blow to a state party.
“That’s a pretty blunt instrument,” Perez underscored. “If your delegates don’t matter in a convention, you’re not going to be very happy as a state.”