June 7, 2023

Democrats are poised to remove Iowa from leading the presidential nominating process starting in 2024, part of a broader effort to allow less overwhelmingly white states to advance earlier and better reflect the party’s vastly diverse electorate.

The rulemaking arm of the Democratic National Committee had planned to propose Friday which states should be the first four to vote, while considering adding a fifth before Super Tuesday, when a large number of states hold primaries elections. But he delayed the decision until the November election, lest it become a distraction that affects Democrats in key congressional races.

But Iowa’s caucus remains precarious after technical glitches led to a collapse in 2020. More than a decade of complaints that caucus rules requiring in-person attendance serve to limit turnout are cornered. That sparked a furious push for the No. 1 spot between New Hampshire, which now goes second but traditionally starts primary voting, and Nevada, a heavily Spanish-speaking state looking to jump from third to first.

“I fully expect Iowa to be replaced,” said Julian Castro, a former San Antonio mayor and federal housing chief. “And that the original calendar will be rearranged to better reflect the diversity of the Democratic Party and the country.”

Castro is not on the rules committee, but has criticized Iowa as the front-runner since his 2019 presidential bid. A Democratic National Committee spokesman said the rules committee is “conducting a thorough process” and will continue to “let it play out ».

Iowa has survived past challenges and can do so again, especially given that a final decision won’t be made for months. She argues that, except in 2020, voters here have a strong track record of starting the nominating process — and that her caucuses are keeping Democrats relevant amid the state’s recent shift to the right.

Iowa Democratic Party Chairman Ross Wilburn said he will fight to ensure that nearly 50 years of tradition are preserved.

“When I became president and we started this process, the word was ‘Iowa is over,'” Wilburn told reporters Thursday. “But no decision has been made. No calendar has been presented to the committee. We’re still in this fight.”

However, several members of the rules committee have said privately that the party is leaning toward New Hampshire or Nevada coming first, or perhaps on the same day. All requested anonymity to more freely clarify ongoing discussions.

South Carolina, with its large bloc of Black Democrats, may move from fourth to third, freeing up a large midwestern state to go next. Michigan and Minnesota have strong cases, but both cannot move their primary dates without legislative approval, which requires Republican support.

If the committee adds a fifth early slot, it could go to Iowa to soften the blow.

Iowa has been on the ballot since 1976, when Jimmy Carter pulled off an upset and grabbed enough momentum to eventually win the presidency. It has since been followed by New Hampshire, which held the nation’s first primary since 1920. Nevada and South Carolina have followed suit since the 2008 presidential election, when Democrats last made a major overhaul of the calendar.

Nevada has now abolished its caucus in favor of a primary. During a recent presentation before rules committee members, the delegation showed her a video arguing that “tradition is not a good enough reason to maintain the status quo.”

“If a diverse and inclusive state isn’t at the front of the primary calendar, I’m really concerned that what we’re going to continue to see are the same criticisms that we’ve seen of the Democratic primary,” he said. Nevada Democratic Senator Jackie Rosen.

Representatives from Iowa and New Hampshire argue that small states allow all candidates — not just well-funded ones — to connect with voters personally, and that losing their seats could benefit Republicans in congressional races. The GOP has already decided to continue Iowa to begin the 2024 presidential nominating cycle.

“Just like when two more states were added in the early window, Nevada and South Carolina,” there is a sense that, just as America is not stagnant, “that the Democratic Party is changing and growing with the times as well,” he said. rules committee member Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers;

Bill Sahin, a member of the New Hampshire Democratic National Committee, said he did not know what would have happened if the rules committee vote had not been postponed, but he welcomed it as “another opportunity to show what kind of state we are.”

When the DNC approved the primary calendar overhaul before 2008, it called the Nevada caucus after Iowa and before New Hampshire, only to see New Hampshire move up in its primary. Sahin said his state may do similar this time, regardless of the party’s decision.

“We’re going to do the first primary whether the DNC recognizes it or not,” said Shaheen, whose wife, Jeanne, is a senator. “There is a strong possibility of that.”

Those pushing for more diverse states say Democrats can impose sanctions to prevent such jockeying this time.

Non-white voters made up 26 percent of all voters and backed Joe Biden over Donald Trump by a nearly 3-to-1 margin in the 2020 presidential election, according to AP VoteCast, a nationwide survey of the electorate. Non-white voters then made up 38% of Democratic voters.

By contrast, 91% of Iowa Democratic caucus participants in 2020 were white, and 94% of New Hampshire primary voters were, according to VoteCast surveys.

Rep. Debbie Dingell, D-Mich., who is helping lead her state’s push to go early, said Michigan reflects diversity “and that’s what we’re missing in these early primaries.”

“We’re not testing the candidates on what their general election will be like,” said Dingell, who added that Michigan “has more gerrymandered counties than anyone would like.” and wolfed fried versions of every food imaginable.

“We’re pretty good at junk food,” Dingell said with a laugh.

If the rules committee approves a reshaped framework, it would still have to be approved by the full Democratic National Committee, although it usually approves such decisions.

That could be moot if Biden chooses to seek a second term. In that case, the party will likely have little appetite to build a strong primary program that would potentially allow another Democrat to challenge him for the nomination.

Some members of the rules committee suggested the White House has shown more interest in the primary calendar process recently, but others expressed frustration that the Biden administration has not given them clearer guidance on where its preferences lie.

In addition to diversity, Democrats are looking at electoral competitiveness and state efforts to loosen restrictions on elections. They scrutinize racial makeup, union membership, and the size of states in terms of population and geography — which can affect direct voter turnout opportunities and travel and advertising costs.

After glitches in the results prevented the Associated Press from declaring a winner, Iowa Democrats proposed changing the caucus’ presidential preference section to require all participants to mail in their choices. But there have also been calls for more than a decade by top Democrats to move the starting line elsewhere, underscoring the party’s growth and potential among younger voters and voters of color.

Advocacy groups cheered Nevada’s bid for first, with Latino Victory, the board of directors of the Asian American Action Fund, the Hispanic Congressional Bold PAC, Somos Votantes and ASPIRE PAC, which represents members of Congress from Asian America and the Pacific Islanders, to support her.

Castro said his position was once an extreme position that infuriated party bosses but had become increasingly accepted among top Democrats.

“This time is different,” he said. “After the experience of Iowa in 2020 — and after the push for equity and racial justice over the past two years, the recognition that the Democratic Party is the only big stage party, the only inclusive party — it’s only fitting that our primary calendar reflects that.”


Weissert reported from Washington. Associated Press writers Holly Ramer in Concord, New Hampshire, and Hannah Fingerhut in Washington contributed.

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