The Democrats’ new primary schedule remains up in the air. The party insists it’s OK

WASHINGTON (AP) — New Hampshire is in open rebellion. Georgia is practically absent.

South Carolina and Nevada are on board but face strong Republican resistance. Michigan’s compliance may mean having to cut short the state’s legislative session, despite Democrats controlling both houses and the governor’s mansion.

Then there’s Iowa, which is looking for ways to always come first without violating party rules.

Months after the Democratic Party approved President Joe Biden’s plan to revise its primary order to better reflect a deeply diverse voter base, implementing the revamped order has proven anything but simple. Party officials now expect the process to continue until the end of the year – even as the 2024 presidential race heats up all around.

“Despite the fact that it felt like relatively smooth sailing for the president when he proposed it … the kind of backlash you hear, the reactions are exactly what we expected,” said David Redlawsk, president of the political committee. Department of Science at the University of Delaware and co-author of the book “Why Iowa? How Caucuses and Sequential Elections Improve the Presidential Nominating 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 minor primary challengers in self-help author Marianne. Williamson and anti-vaccine activist Robert F. Kennedy Jr.

Biden’s political advisers say the president does not expect to campaign heavily in the Democratic primary and will instead focus on the general election. But the main calendar drama could nonetheless prove a headache for Democrats who want to project unity before 2024 and could cause problems for 2028 – when the party has promised to review its main calendar again.

Jim Roosevelt, co-chair of the DNC’s rules and regulations committee, said he “wasn’t surprised” at the objections from Iowa and New Hampshire since they lost their top spots, and that the committee is “certainly able to circumvent” the protests of the Republicans in places adapting to the new rules or the new slots of the calendar.

“I think having a sitting president is the most likely time to make a fundamental change to make the process more representative,” said Roosevelt, who also noted that the party last forced a reorganization of its primary schedule before a competitive presidential primary in 2008. .

He will have that chance again, however, since a potential next round of reorganization will come when, come what may in 2024, there is no Democratic incumbent seeking re-election.

A new lengthy and controversial new calendar process could then mean uncertainty with real electoral consequences — perhaps even making it difficult for Democrats running for a competitive presidential primary to know where to campaign, hire staff and make money. advertisement. The party can try to mitigate this by starting its 2028 calendar discussions early, potentially even weeks after next year’s election.

The prospect of another drawn-out fight won’t deter the party, however: “Certainly we’ll see that again in 2028,” Roosevelt said.

In the meantime, the DNC isn’t considering changing the 2024 plan it approved in February, stripping the Iowa caucus of the top spot it’s held since 1972 and replacing it with South Carolina, which is expected to have their primary on February 3. second, three days later were supposed to be New Hampshire and Nevada, which dropped their caucus in favor of a primary.

The new order had them followed by the Georgia primary on Feb. 13 and the Michigan primary two weeks later. Those states would precede most of the rest of the country, which votes on Super Tuesday in early March, giving them huge sway over which primary candidates can make it that far.

But New Hampshire responded by pointing to its state’s law requiring it to hold the nation’s first presidential primary — which Iowa only circumvented for five decades because it held a caucus — and threatening to get ahead.

Georgia, meanwhile, is unlikely to take its place in the new top 5 because Republicans in the state have rejected calls to move their party’s primary to conform to the Democrats’ new date.

While South Carolina Democrats are expected to go first, Republicans in the state delayed their party’s primary until three weeks later on Feb. 24. In Nevada, Republicans have sued to maintain their party-led presidential caucus, even as the state moves to a primary. system. Michigan also approved its new date, but its legislature may adjourn early to make it work.

And Iowa has offered to hold a caucus before everyone else, but can’t release the results of its presidential contest until later, out of respect for new party rules.

This year’s reshuffle followed the collapse of the Iowa caucus in 2020. Iowa responded by proposing new rules allowing Democrats to submit their presidential picks by mail, breaking with old caucus rules requiring a in-person attendance.

Scott Brennan, an Iowa lawyer and member of the DNC’s rules committee, said his state “knew the game was against us” since the primary calendar shuffle began – but his Democrats have since tried to avoid to openly defy the plans of the national party.

“We’re trying to stay flexible for as long as possible,” Brennan said, “to see if there’s a way to fix this.”

Republicans are still leading their 2024 primary with the Iowa caucus, and the Iowa GOP could set a date for its caucus next month. That would then allow Iowa Democrats to tell the DNC when it plans to hold its caucus, even if the presidential results aren’t released until later.

Iowa Democrats hope their more flexible stance could see the state slip back into the top 5 in the Democratic primary if Georgia and New Hampshire drop out. That would mean Iowa would bridge a potential gap between Nevada’s vote on Feb. 6 and Michigan’s vote on Feb. 27 — per Roosevelt, such a scenario is unlikely.

“I give Iowa a lot of credit for trying to work flexibly,” he said. “If Iowa were to find a way to fully comply with the new rules, that would be considered. Frankly, I think it’s too late for that.

Roosevelt also noted that one of the reasons the majority white state was dropped from the top spot “was demographics, and that’s not going to change.”

New Hampshire took a tougher tone, saying its Republican governor and GOP-controlled legislature will not change state law requiring it to hold the nation’s first primary.

“We have no choice but to delay the primary. Maybe Iowa is different,” said New Hampshire Democratic National Committee member Bill Shaheen.

If New Hampshire goes ahead with its plan to go first and Biden chooses not to campaign there, one of his challengers could see a surge in support. That would be potentially embarrassing for the president, though the DNC pointed to a poll showing Biden with a substantial lead in the state primary.

“I don’t think the DNC will do anything that will change what we’re going to do,” Shaheen said of the national party’s ongoing work to overhaul its primary. “We don’t like being pushed too much.”

Biden’s re-election campaign declined to discuss his main challengers or whether they could be bolstered by the success of an unauthorized New Hampshire primary. Democrats in Iowa, on the other hand, have suggested they would list Biden as a presidential preference in their caucus whether he campaigns there or not, which could save the president embarrassment there.

Redlawsk said the fact that Democrats have gone this far in their calendar reshuffle means “the battle will continue, but I think it’s much more likely that change will happen now” and the impact could be profound. .

“These early states really condition the campaign. Early states don’t guarantee a winner, but they tell us who is going to lose, at least in the early rounds,” Redlawsk said. “Winnowing is very likely to be different if the first state is South Carolina, or Nevada, or some combination, than if it were Iowa or New Hampshire.”

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