WASHINGTON – President Joe Biden has a simple message for the Democratic National Committee: Black voters matter.
The president Thursday recommended a massive overhaul to the presidential nominating calendar, calling on South Carolina to become the first state as part of the process. South Carolina was key in electing Biden, with its large Black voter population reigniting then-candidate Biden’s campaign and catapulting him to the presidency.
The president’s plan would knock Iowa out of its leadoff position and elevate Michigan and Georgia, which have a more diverse voter electorate than Iowa and a large Black voter population. Biden during the 2020 election also flipped both Michigan and Georgia.
What does it take to be first?:These states want to replace Iowa on the presidential calendar
“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,” Biden said in a letter to the DNC. “We rely on these voters in elections but have not recognized their importance in our nominating calendar. It is time to stop taking these voters for granted, and time to give them a louder and earlier voice in the process.”
Here’s what’s happened so far:
- President Joe Biden weighed in Thursday, giving a strong indication of where the DNC’s Rules and Bylaws Committee is headed.
- The group has meetings scheduled all day Friday and Saturday to discuss the proposal, which replaces Iowa in the leadoff spot.
- Backlash has already begun. New Hampshire and Iowa have said they will go first regardless of Biden’s proposal.
Republicans have already set their 2024 presidential nominating calendar, keeping Iowa first.
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We’re covering all the twists and turns of the DNC’s Rules and Bylaws Committee as they meet in Washington, DC Follow us here to learn the latest:
Biden was open to South Carolina hosting first primary after 2020 victory
After Biden’s 2020 primary victory in South Carolina, the state where he netted his first win, he discussed having the state host the nation’s first Democratic presidential primary.
“I think he agreed that this was a much more dynamic process,” Dick Harpootlian, former chair of the South Carolina Democratic Party, told the Associated Press. “Iowa was just a nightmare.”
–Ken Tran, Associated Press
New Hampshire Democrats say it will keep first ‘regardless’
New Hampshire Democrats are not reacting kindly to President Joe Biden’s call that would put them second, along with Nevada, to South Carolina. They are vowing the Granite State’s primary will go first, in accordance with state law, regardless of what the Democratic National Committee decides.
“The DNC did not give New Hampshire the first-in-the-nation primary and it is not theirs to take away,” said Ray Buckley, chair of the New Hampshire Democrats. “We have survived past attempts over the decades and we will survive this.”
Biden placed fifth in the 2020 New Hampshire primary, leaving the state for South Carolina on primary night, before results were announced.
Meaning. Jeanne Shaheen and Maggie Hassan, both New Hampshire Democrats, also used strong words in defense of the first-in-the-nation primary.
In a statement released Thursday, Shaheen called the White House’s proposal a “short-sighted decision risks splintering attention from candidates, denying voters crucial opportunities to connect with candidates and hear their visions and policy priorities.”
Hassan said, “We will always hold the first in the nation primary, and this status is independent of the president’s proposal or any political organization.”
Rep. Annie Kuster echoed the defense of New Hampshire holding on to its first-in-the-nation status.
“Because of its size, geography, and political participation, New Hampshire is perfectly-situated to host the FITN primary,” she said in a statement Thursday. “The Granite State gives candidates the opportunity to connect with one-on-one voters to make their case, strengthen their messaging, and allows a wide range of candidates to compete.”
— Rebecca Morin and Glenn Sabalewski
Biden wants South Carolina to replace Iowa as first in the nation in selection process
President Joe Biden finally weighed in on the selection process Thursday, recommending a massive overhaul of the presidential nominating calendar that would have South Carolina 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.
“Our party should no longer allow caucuses as part of our nominating process,” Biden said in a letter dated Dec. 1 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.”
New Hampshire, which by law holds the first primary, immediately pushed back, with US Sen. Maggie Hassan calling Biden’s proposal “misguided.”
“New Hampshire’s law is clear and our primary will continue to be first in the nation,” Hassan said. “New Hampshire does democracy better than anywhere else.”
The development chagrined Iowa Democrats.
“Small rural states like Iowa must have a voice in our presidential nominating process,” Iowa Democratic Party chair Ross Wilburn said in a statement. “Democrats cannot forget about entire groups of voters in the heart of the Midwest without doing significant damage to the party for a generation.”
Iowa Republicans to Iowa Democrats: Fight for the caucuses
Republican Party of Iowa Chairman Jeff Kaufmann is calling on senior Iowa Democrats to speak up in defense of Iowa’s first-in-the-nation caucuses.
So far, major party figures such as former US Sen. Tom Harkin and US Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack have not publicly defended Iowa’s caucuses or their place on the nominating calendar.
“On the Republican side, Republican officials and I worked as a team to ensure that the longstanding tradition of the Iowa caucuses was preserved,” Kaufmann wrote in an op-ed in the Des Moines Register. “But Republicans cannot help save this process for Democrats.”
Although Iowa Democratic Party Chair Ross Wilburn has promised to “fight like hell” to protect the caucuses, many rank-and-file Iowa Democrats have approached the issue with more of a collective shoulder shrug.
Some acknowledge that it may be time for another state with more racial diversity to take over. Others say they cannot continue expending energy on protecting the caucuses when they should be focusing on reclaiming the seats they’ve lost to Republicans in recent years.
An October Des Moines Register/Mediacom Iowa Poll showed a majority of Iowans say it would be best for Iowa to continue holding the first presidential nominating contest, though a growing share says it would be better if some other state or states took over.
That sentiment is more pronounced among Democrats, the poll showed.
Rules committee gathers in Washington with no signal yet from the White House
Members of the Democratic National Committee’s Rules and Bylaws Committee began gathering in Washington, DC, Thursday evening, attending a private dinner before public meetings are set to begin Friday.
The committee is expected to make a proposal this week that will reshuffle the presidential nominating calendar after months of hearings and deliberations.
“We do have a leader of our party, and that is President Biden. So we know that there will be a way in from the White House,” said Artie Blanco of Nevada, a member of the DNC’s Rules and Bylaws Committee. “Our goal is to have the best calendar that gives our president — when he’s running again — what it looks like for us and for future candidates.”