WASHINGTON (AP) — President Joe Biden said Thursday that Democrats should abandon ‘restrictive’ caucuses and prioritize diversity at the start of their presidential primary schedule – dealing a blow to Iowa’s decades-long status as a state leading the process .
In a letter to the Democratic National Committee’s regulatory arm, Biden did not mention the specific states he would like to see come first. But he told Democrats he wanted South Carolina to move to the top spot, according to three people familiar with his recommendation who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss private conversations.
The president’s direction comes as the DNC rules committee meets in Washington on Friday vote to shake up the calendar of presidential primaries from 2024. Members now expect to approve new rules putting South Carolina first, followed by New Hampshire and Nevada on the same day a week later.
Georgia and Michigan would enter the top five as new top states, and each would hold primaries in the following weeks, according to committee members. Both battlegrounds were critical to Biden’s 2020 victory over then-President Donald Trump, who won both states during his 2016 campaign for the White House.
Much of the rest of the country would vote on Super Tuesday soon after.
Such changes are expected to come after years of calls from many top Democrats for the election calendar to better reflect the party’s deeply diverse base than predominantly white Iowa, which holds the nation’s top caucus, and the New Hampshire, which holds the first primary. The new schedule will still need to be approved by the full DNC in a vote early next year, but the DNC will almost certainly consider the recommendations of the rulemaking committee.
The proposed order of early states was first reported by The Washington Post.
“For decades, black voters in particular have been the backbone of the Democratic Party but were pushed back early in the primary process,” Biden wrote in a letter on personal stationery that did not bear the seal of the House. White House. “We rely on these voters in elections, but we have not recognized their importance in our nomination calendar. It’s time to stop taking these voters for granted and give them a stronger, earlier voice in the process.
He said the caucuses were “restrictive and anti-worker” because they force voters “to spend a lot of time” at a nighttime rally to choose candidates in person, “disadvantaging hourly workers and anyone who doesn’t have the flexibility to go to a set place at a specific time.
The changes could be implemented as early as 2024 but would be largely meaningless until 2028 if Biden chooses to seek a second term.. The president has said for months that he intends to run again, and White House aides and Biden allies have begun talks about staffing and the structure of his likely 2024 bid while refraining from overt action while the president weighs a final decision.
Such a shakeup would nonetheless be seismic given that the Iowa caucus has topped the Democratic election calendar since 1976. Yet it would come two years after a series of technical glitches so marred by party results. that they blocked the Associated Press from declaring a 2020 Iowa Democratic caucus winner.
On the current Democratic calendar, Iowa was followed by New Hampshire, which held the nation’s first primary since 1920. Nevada and South Carolina are next since the 2008 presidential election, when Democrats carried out a major overhaul of the primary calendar for the last time.
The Republican National Committee, meanwhile, has already decided to keep the Iowa caucus as the first contest of its 2024 presidential calendar, ensuring that GOP White House hopefuls — including Trump — will continue to campaign there frequently. .
South Carolina is of particular importance to Biden. his victory in the state’s first primary in the South in 2020, he launched his presidential campaign after poor results in Iowa and New Hampshire en route to winning the Democratic nomination.
Dick Harpootlian, a longtime Biden ally, fundraiser and former chairman of the South Carolina Democratic Party, said Thursday that he and Biden discussed South Carolina’s possible advancement the night of the primary victory. of Biden in 2020 there. Harpootlian said he made it clear to Biden that the state was a better place than Iowa to hold a presidential voting contest even sooner — to which Harpootlian said Biden was receptive.
“I think he agreed it was a much more dynamic process,” Harpootlian said. “Iowa was just a nightmare.”
The DNC rules committee has been discussing the early schedule reorganization for months, sparking an uphill battle between many states to go first. In a joint statement late Thursday, Michigan Democratic Party Chair Lavora Barnes and U.S. Representative Debbie Dingell said, “We have always said that any road to the White House is through the heart and President Biden understands that. .
But Biden’s wishes have sparked anger in New Hampshire, where state law calls for the nation’s first primary and officials have threatened for months to simply speed up their election no matter what. new rules approved by the DNC. Other states have already attempted to violate party rules and move closer to the front, only to be threatened that their delegates will not count towards the candidate chosen to win the party’s nomination.
New Hampshire Democratic Senator Jeanne Shaheen released a statement castigating “the White House’s short-sighted decision”, while fellow New Hampshire Democrat Senator Maggie Hassan said, “I strongly oppose to the president’s deeply flawed proposal.
“But make no mistake,” Hassan said in a statement. “New Hampshire’s law is clear and our primary will continue to be the first in the nation.”
Kinnard reported from Columbia, SC Associated Press writer Steve Peoples in New York City contributed to this report.