Dems back off plan to ditch first-in-nation primary states

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Democrats were poised a year ago to strip Iowa and New Hampshire from their longstanding status as first-in-the-nation for the party’s presidential primaries, but that sentiment appears to have died down due to political expediency.

Politico reported Monday that the party “suddenly” has “more pressing problems” and as such, Democratic leaders, as well as the White House, have decided that ditching those states would not be such a good idea given the political headwinds ahead of the 2022 midterms.

Specifically, party leaders gathered for a year-end conference in Charleston, S.C. this week told Politico that the once-popular push to rearrange the order of primary states has vanished for the time being as “Democratic National Committee members, state party chairs and strategists laid bare widespread desire to avoid a divisive, intraparty dispute in 2022.”

In addition, many party officials expressed doubts that changes put in place after next year’s midterms could be put in place in time for the 2024 presidential race.

“I think it’s going to stay the same,” Colmon Elridge, the Kentucky Democratic Party chair, told the outlet. “The energy that was around tinkering with the calendar. … It hasn’t come up a lot, but when it does, it’s, ‘We’re not there anymore.’”

Another Democratic strategist said that “there’s no energy” anymore for making the changes, while a DNC official who follows the primary process closely responded: “Why not kick the can down the road to ’28, when you’re presumably going to have an open White House?”

In that scenario, Iowa “may still be f**ked,” adding: “The real question is whether it’s f**ked in 2024 or 2028.”

Politico added:

Iowa and New Hampshire, after fending off challenges to their one-two order in the primary calendar for years, appeared especially vulnerable following the 2020 election. The two heavily white states were derided as insufficiently representative of the Democratic Party’s diverse electorate, while Iowa’s caucuses were marred by delayed results and calculation errors. The eventual nominee, Joe Biden, lost both states badly, further straining their claims to privileged status.

Nevada Gov. Steve Sisolak (D) signed a measure in June shifting his state’s 2024 nominating primary ahead of Iowa and New Hampshire, while Washington Democrats tossed around the notion, among other reforms, of “rotating early primary states, hosting regional primaries or holding multiple early state primaries on the same day,” Politico noted.

“Nevada represents a diverse constituency that presidential candidates need to talk to,” Nevada House Speaker Jason Frierson said at a bill signing ceremony in Las Vegas. “It is not just for us. It is for candidates to vet their issues and communicate with the kind of communities that they’re going to be asking to vote for them in the national presidential election.”

Politico noted that changes are still possible, adding that the Biden White House will have a major influence on the primary calendar, especially if the president calls for one. However, the administration has yet to voice an opinion one way or the other on the issue, while DNC officials don’t seem nearly as enthused about shifting primary states as they were during the previous presidential election cycle.

“I just don’t know if we’re at the point to have that discussion,” Yvette Lewis, chair of the Maryland Democratic Party, told Politico that the more pressing issue is to get Biden’s agenda passed.

“Let’s deal with the issues at hand,” she said.

Jon Dougherty


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