Biden Wants SC as 1st Vote 12/02 06:32
WASHINGTON (AP) -- President Joe Biden said Thursday that Democrats should
give up "restrictive" caucuses and prioritize diversity at the start of their
presidential primary calendar -- dealing a major blow to Iowa's decades-long
status as the state that leads off the process.
In a letter to the rule-making arm of the Democratic National Committee,
Biden did not mention specific states he'd like to see go first. But he has
told Democrats he wants South Carolina moved to the first position, 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 gathers in
Washington on Friday to vote on shaking up the presidential primary calendar
starting in 2024. Members now expect to approve new rules putting South
Carolina first, followed by New Hampshire and Nevada on the same day a week
Georgia and Michigan would move into the top five as new early states, and
each would hold primaries in subsequent weeks, committee members say. The two
battlegrounds were critical to Biden's 2020 victory over then-President Donald
Trump, who had won both states in his 2016 White House campaign.
Much of the rest of the country would vote as part of Super Tuesday soon
Such changes are set to come after years of calls from many top Democrats
for the voting calendar to better reflect the party's deeply diverse base than
mostly white Iowa, which holds the country's first caucus, and New Hampshire,
which holds the first primary. The new calendar would still have to be approved
by the full DNC in a vote likely to come early next year, but the DNC will
almost certainly heed the rule-making panel's recommendations.
The proposed order of the early states was first reported by The Washington
"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 wrote in a letter on personal stationery that did not carry the
White House seal. "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
He said caucuses were "restrictive and anti-worker" because they require
voters "to spend significant amounts of time" on one night gathering to choose
candidates in person, "disadvantaging hourly workers and anyone who does not
have the flexibility to go to a set location at a set time."
The changes could be implemented as soon as 2024 but would be rendered
largely meaningless until 2028 if Biden opts 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 staffing and structural discussions for his
likely 2024 bid while refraining from overt steps while the president weighs a
Such a shakeup would nonetheless be seismic given that Iowa's caucus has led
off the Democratic voting calendar since 1976. Still, it would come two years
after a series of technical glitches so marred party results that they
prevented The Associated Press from declaring a 2020 Iowa Democratic caucus
On the current Democratic calendar, Iowa has been followed by New Hampshire,
which has held the nation's first primary since 1920. Nevada and South Carolina
have gone next since the 2008 presidential election, when Democrats last did a
major primary calendar overhaul.
The Republican National Committee, meanwhile, has already decided to keep
Iowa's caucus as the first contest in its 2024 presidential calendar, ensuring
that GOP White House hopefuls -- which include Trump -- will continue
campaigning there frequently.
South Carolina holds special relevance to Biden. His victory in the state's
first-in-the-South primary in 2020 kickstarted his presidential campaign after
poor finishes in Iowa and New Hampshire on his way to winning the Democratic
Dick Harpootlian, a longtime Biden ally, fundraiser and former South
Carolina Democratic Party chair, said Thursday that he and Biden discussed
South Carolina's possible advancement the night of Biden's 2020 primary victory
there. Harpootlian said he'd impressed upon Biden that the state was a better
place than Iowa to hold an even earlier presidential voting contest -- to which
Harpootlian said Biden was receptive.
"I think he agreed that this was a much more dynamic process," Harpootlian
said. "Iowa was just a nightmare."
The DNC rules committee has been discussing reordering the early calendar
for months, touching off a fierce battle among many states to go first. In a
joint statement Thursday night, Michigan Democratic Party Chair Lavora Barnes
and U.S. Rep. Debbie Dingell said, "We have always said that any road to the
White House goes through the heartland and President Biden understands that."
But Biden's wishes sparked anger in New Hampshire, where state law calls for
holding the nation's first primary and where officials had for months
threatened to simply move up their election regardless of what new rules the
DNC approves. Other states have previously tried to violate party rules and
jump closer to the front, only to be threatened with having their delegates not
count toward their chosen candidate clinching the party's nomination.
New Hampshire Democratic Sen. Jeanne Shaheen issued a statement blasting
"the White House's short-sighted decision," while fellow New Hampshire
Democratic Sen. Maggie Hassan said, "I strongly oppose the President's deeply
"But make no mistake," Hassan said in a statement. "New Hampshire's law is
clear and our primary will continue to be first in the nation."