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Dems move to place Michigan among early presidential primary states

sign marking poll distance banning campaigning at polling places
Jodi Westrick
/
Michigan Radio

Democrats voted Friday to remove Iowa as the leadoff state on the presidential nominating calendar and replace it with South Carolina starting in 2024, a dramatic shakeup championed by President Joe Biden to better reflect the party’s deeply diverse electorate.

The Democratic National Committee’s rule-making arm made the move to strip Iowa from the position it has held for five decades after technical meltdowns sparked chaos and marred results of the state’s 2020 caucus. The change also comes after a long push by some of the party’s top leaders to start choosing a president in states that are less white, especially given the importance of Black voters as Democrats’ most loyal electoral base.

The committee approved moving South Carolina’s primary to Feb. 3 and having Nevada and New Hampshire vote three days later. Georgia would go the following week and Michigan two weeks after that.

Discussion on prioritizing diversity drew such impassioned reaction at the committee gathering in Washington that DNC chair Jaime Harrison wiped away tears as committee member Donna Brazile suggested that Democrats had spent years failing to fight for Black voters: “Do you know what it’s like to live on a dirt road? Do you know what it’s like to try to find running water that is clean?”

“Do you know what it’s like to wait and see if the storm is going to pass you by and your roof is still intact?” Brazile asked. “That’s what this is about.”

The move marks a dramatic shift from the current calendar, which has had Iowa holding the first-in-the-nation caucuses since 1972, followed by New Hampshire’s first-in-the-nation primary since 1920. Nevada and South Carolina have gone next since the 2008 presidential election, when Democrats last did a major overhaul of their primary calendar.

The changes will still have to be approved by the full DNC in a vote likely early next year, but it will almost certainly follow the rule-making committee’s lead.

The revamped schedule could largely be moot for 2024 if Biden opts to seek a second term, but may remake Democratic presidential cycles after that. The president has said for months that he intends to run again, and White House aides have begun making staffing discussions for his likely reelection campaign, even though no final decision has been made.

Four of the five states now poised to start the party’s primary are presidential battlegrounds, meaning the eventual Democratic winner would be able to lay groundwork in important general election locales. That’s especially true for Michigan and Georgia, which both voted for Donald Trump in 2016 before flipping to Biden in 2020. The exception is South Carolina, which hasn’t gone Democratic in a presidential race since 1976.

The Associated Press is an independent global news organization dedicated to factual reporting.
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