New Hampshire is in open rebellion. Georgia is as good as out.
South Carolina and Nevada are on board but face fierce Republican opposition. Michigan’s compliance could mean the state’s legislative session has to be scrapped, even though Democrats control both houses and the governor’s mansion.
Then there’s Iowa, which is looking for ways to still come first without violating party rules.
Months after the Democratic Party approved President Joe Biden’s plan to revise its constitutional order to better reflect a highly diverse electorate, implementing the revised constitution proved far from easy. Party officials now expect the process to continue until the end of the year – even if the 2024 presidential campaign heats up all around.
“Despite the fact that when the president proposed it appeared to be going relatively smoothly… the kind of backlash you’re hearing, the reactions are exactly what we expected,” said David Redlawsk, chairman of the political Department of Science at the University of Delaware and co-author of Why Iowa? How Caucuses and Sequential Elections Improve the Presidential Nomination Process.”
The DNC says it’s prepared for an arduous process but isn’t overly concerned about the uncertainty, in part because Biden faces only smaller major opponents in self-help author Marianne Williamson and anti-vaccination opponent Robert F. Kennedy Jr
Biden’s political advisers say the president doesn’t expect an extensive campaign in the Democratic primary and will instead focus on the general election. But the drama surrounding the primary calendar could still be a headache for Democrats who want to project unity before 2024, and problems for 2028 — when the party has promised to reconsider its primary calendar.
Jim Roosevelt, co-chair of the DNC’s Rules and Bylaws Committee, said he was “not surprised” at the objections from Iowa and New Hampshire, as they are losing their top spots, and that the committee “certainly is able to to circumvent this”. Republican protests in places adapting to new rules or new dates on the calendar.
“I think that with an incumbent president, the most likely time is to make a fundamental change to make the process more representative,” said Roosevelt, who also noted that the party last pushed through a rearrangement of its primary election calendar ahead of a contested presidential primary in 2008 have .
That chance will come again, however, as there will be a possible reshuffle in the next cycle when, no matter what happens in 2024, there will be no incumbent Democratic president seeking re-election.
Another long, contentious new calendar process could then spell uncertainty with real electoral implications — perhaps even making it difficult for Democrats racing in a contested presidential primary to know where to campaign, hire staff, and advertise. The party may try to mitigate this by starting its 2028 calendar discussions early, possibly even weeks after next year’s election.
However, the prospect of another protracted struggle will not deter the party: “We will definitely see that again in 2028,” Roosevelt said.
In the meantime, the DNC has no plans to change the 2024 plan it approved in February to strip Iowa’s faction of the top spot it has held since 1972 and replace it with South Carolina, whose primary will be held on March 3. February is scheduled Second, three days later, New Hampshire and Nevada should be giving up their caucuses in favor of a primary.
The new arrangement called for them to be followed by the February 13 Georgia primary and two weeks later by the Michigan primary. Those states would precede most of the rest of the country voting on Super Tuesday in early March — giving them tremendous leverage in deciding which primary candidates can make it this far.
But New Hampshire responded by citing its state law mandating the holding of the nation’s first presidential primary — which Iowa sidestepped for five decades only by holding a caucus — and threatening to give it a head start.
Georgia, on the other hand, is unlikely to take its place in the new top 5 as the state’s Republicans have rejected calls to postpone their party’s primary to match the Democrats’ new date.
While South Carolina’s Democrats are slated to take first place, the state’s Republicans have pushed back their party’s primary to three weeks later, on February 24. In Nevada, Republicans have sued to maintain their party-run presidential election even as the state moves to a primary system. Michigan has also agreed to its new date, but its Legislature may adjourn early to make it happen.
And Iowa has proposed holding a caucus before anyone else, but may delay releasing the results of its presidential contest in deference to new party rules.
This year’s reorganization followed the 2020 Iowa caucus meltdown. Iowa responded by proposing new rules that would allow Democrats to submit their presidential decisions by mail, breaking previous caucus rules that required in-person attendance foreseen.
Scott Brennan, an Iowa attorney and a member of the DNC’s rules committee, said his state “knew the cards were against us” since the primary calendar change began — but his Democrats have since tried to show open disregard for the plans of the to avoid national party.
“We’re trying to be flexible for as long as possible,” Brennan said, “to see if there’s a way to fix it.”
Republicans are still leading their 2024 primary with the Iowa Electoral Convention, and Iowa Republicans may set their campaign date next month. That would then allow Iowa Democrats to tell the DNC when they want to hold their election convention, even if the presidential results aren’t released until later.
Iowa Democrats hope their more flexible stance could see the state re-enter the top 5 Democratic primary if Georgia and New Hampshire vacate their seats. That would mean Iowa would close a potential gap between the Feb. 6 vote in Nevada and the Feb. 27 vote in Michigan — a scenario Roosevelt said was unlikely.
“I give Iowa great credit for trying to be flexible,” he said. “If Iowa found a way to be fully compliant with the new rules, that would be considered. To be honest, I think it’s too late for that.”
Roosevelt also noted that one of the reasons the mostly white state was knocked out of No. 1 was “demographics, and that’s not going to change.”
New Hampshire has hit harder, saying its Republican governor and GOP-controlled legislature will not change state law mandating the holding of the nation’s first primary.
“We have no choice but to postpone the primaries. Maybe Iowa is different,” said Bill Shaheen, a member of the New Hampshire Democratic National Committee.
If New Hampshire moves forward with its plan to take first place and Biden chooses not to campaign there, one of his challengers could see a surge in support. That would potentially be embarrassing for the president, although the DNC has pointed to polls showing Biden to have a clear lead in the state’s primary.
“I don’t think the DNC is going to do anything that will change what we’re going to do,” Shaheen said of the National Party’s ongoing work on overhauling its primary. “We just don’t like being pushed around.”
Biden’s re-election campaign has declined to talk about his key challengers or whether success in an unsanctioned New Hampshire primary could give them a boost. In contrast, Democrats in Iowa have suggested that they will list Biden as a presidential candidate in their caucus, whether or not he campaigns there — and could potentially save the president there embarrassment.
Redlawsk said the fact that Democrats have made it this far in their calendar change means that “the struggle will continue, but I think it’s far more likely that changes will come now” and that the impact will be profound could.
“These early states are really shaping the campaign. The first states don’t guarantee a winner, but they tell us who will lose, at least in the early rounds,” Redlawsk said. “Recovery will most likely be different if the first state is South Carolina or Nevada or a combination thereof than if it were Iowa or New Hampshire.”