December 5, 2022

Biden Aims to Reshuffle the 2024 Primary Calendar

Despite what he says, “diversity” isn’t his real reason for making South Carolina the Democrats’ first primary state in 2024.

Maybe Joe Biden is serious when he says he intends to run for reelection. Or maybe he just wants to help Kamala Harris. Biden has proposed an overhaul of the 2024 Democrat presidential primary calendar.

In a letter to the DNC Rules and Bylaws Committee last week, Biden wrote, “For 50 years, the first month of our presidential nominating process has been a treasured part of our democratic process, but it is time to update the process for the 21st century.”

Biden’s proposed changes include making South Carolina the first-in-the-nation Democrat primary, followed a week later by New Hampshire and Nevada, then weekly primaries beginning in Georgia and Michigan, with the rest of the states vying for later positions. Iowa, which has prided its caucus as the first step on the road to the White House, would be summarily kicked to the curb.

Biden signified that the changes are an attempt to bring demographic, geographic, and economic variety to the process, as well as give more electoral power to blacks and other minorities. Iowa and New Hampshire are among the whitest states in the nation and, according to Biden, give short shrift to black voters.

Of course, there’s more to Biden’s maneuvering than merely making the primary contest more amenable to minority voters. Iowa has never been a friendly state for Biden politically, and he’d like to avoid starting off a reelection campaign viewed with a lot of skepticism on unfriendly turf. In contrast, South Carolina singlehandedly saved his presidential campaign in 2020, delivering a resounding win for him after he’d been badly beaten in Iowa, New Hampshire, and Nevada. Biden also pointed out in his letter to the DNC that he did not expect to bind the party to this calendar in 2028.

Iowa Democrats, monumentally prideful of their traditional place in the primary pecking order, were not pleased by the news. “We’re going to stand up for Iowa’s place in the process,” said Scott Brennan, the Hawkeye State’s representative on the Rules and Bylaws Committee.

New Hampshire Democrats were likewise flummoxed by the proposed changes. “The DNC did not give New Hampshire the first-in-the-nation primary and it is not theirs to take away,” said New Hampshire Democrat Party Chairman Ray Buckley. “This news is obviously disappointing, but we will be holding our primary first.”

The proposed changes will set off a flurry of jockeying, deal-making, and infighting among states vying for the early primary slots. Minnesota is trying to make the case that it should be the first primary in the Midwest, not Iowa or Michigan. Democrat Representative Debbie Dingell says of her home state of Michigan, “We are a purple state in the middle of the country that reflects the true diversity of the country.”

And so it goes, with each state arguing for its own unique place in the crucial early primary contests, when the most money is made and the most action takes place. Both political parties also like to front-load their primary calendars so that national support can coalesce around a clear frontrunner for the general election.

How this will work out for Democrats in 2024 is hard to say. The 80-year-old Biden is clearly gaming the system in his favor, though, in case he’s challenged for the nomination.

Of course, after that, he still has to convince a majority of the American people that he’s fit for another four years in office — and that he deserves another four years in office.

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