Democrats Weigh Shake-Up to Presidential Primary Calendar

WASHINGTON — New Jersey bills itself as a “microcosm of the country.” Washington State highlights its diverse communities and robust mail-in voting process. And as Iowa hosting the nation’s first presidential nominating contest looks increasingly dim, other Midwestern states see an opportunity.

Just over two years after Iowa’s disastrous Democratic caucuses, in which officials scrambled for results, party officials across the country are increasingly weighing whether to seek their own seats in early statewide primaries, a dynamic which will speed up quickly.

On Wednesday, members of the Democratic National Committee’s powerful Bylaws and Rules Committee voted to begin an application process that will determine which states will host the first presidential nominating contests in the 2024 cycle. party and reorder which constituencies have the most influence.

The resolution adopted Wednesday set out a framework for applicants, and committee leaders also detailed a timeline for evaluating the applications, which are due June 3. Committee recommendations are expected regarding up to five early voting states, an increase from the traditional four. in July, with final approval set for a vote at the Democrats’ summer meeting.

Criticism of Iowa and, to a lesser extent, New Hampshire, two states that have long opened the presidential nominating process, has grown stronger in recent years from those who see them as unrepresentative of the party’s diverse electorate. . Iowa has faced particular scrutiny given high-profile missteps as well as the state’s growing tilt toward Republicans in the general election.

On Wednesday, committee members met at a hotel not far from the White House, home to the man who finished fourth in Iowa and fifth in New Hampshire but still became president of the United States. President Biden won the nomination thanks to late voting from more diverse states that, in some cases, also had more centrist primary electorates.

He posted a distant second in Nevada before making a comeback that resurrected the campaign in South Carolina and went on to dominate racing on Super Tuesday. Those top four states could keep their positions, but must now apply to do so.

The resolution, which included a lengthy amendment process, called for emphasizing racial, ethnic, geographic, and economic diversity and labor representation; cited logistical feasibility issues and transparency issues; and raised questions of competitiveness in the general election. Several of those terms are subject to broad interpretation.

“Fundamentally, we’re focused on competition in the Electoral College,” said James Roosevelt Jr., chairman of the committee. “They can be useful in different ways. They may be useful because they help a Democratic candidate become popular in that state, or because they have a history of choosing someone in their state primary who is ultimately effective in the general election.”

The committee now has a week to formally brief states on the application process, but some have already moved to clearly signal their interest. For example, Nevada, previously a caucus state, is advocating being the first to be a state primary. Nevada’s top Democrats sent personalized letters to members of the rules committee that described an “early battle-tested state that represents the future of the Democratic Party,” according to two copies of the letter obtained by The New York Times. (NBC News previously reported on the Nevada letter.)

“As a highly competitive battleground with strong union representation and one of the most diverse electorates in the country, our state offers a real test of who can put together a winning coalition,” said the letter, signed by the top Democrats elected in the condition.

“I was in Iowa last time, and that was just a lot of confusion,” said Rep. Dina Titus, a Nevada Democrat who signed the letter, calling the push “a pretty unified effort by the state,” adding, “It makes sense. . choose a more representative state to go first.”

In addition to New Jersey Democrats presenting their state to the national party chairman, Michigan and Nebraska Democrats are also presenting their case.

“The most interesting part is going to be what happens in the Midwest, as a lot of people think that Iowa may not be one of the first five states to move forward,” said Tina Podlodowski, the Democratic chair of Washington state. She said her status was “absolutely” considering applying.

Ken Martin, chairman of the Minnesota Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party and vice chairman of the DNC, did not rule out a possible early state run for Minnesota. Instead, he emphasized his interest in securing representation from the Midwest, which would be more urgent if Iowa lost its spot.

“I think Minnesota is likely to consider being a part of this conversation,” he said. “I don’t make those decisions on my own, but I’d bet Minnesota will be in the mix.”

Scott Brennan, a member of the Iowa Democratic National Committee who voted against the resolution, said Wednesday that the state intended to defend its historic status.

“I’m going to take people at their word that they’re going to be open-minded about the process,” he said, adding that Iowa would request their consideration. “The Iowa caucuses have been a big part of that early state process.”

And certainly, there may ultimately be no change to the traditional lineup, though many DNC members are bracing for a slew of out-of-state interest.

“The country is changing, it has changed. The demographics of the party have changed. People want to make sure the schedule reflects those changes and the realities of the party,” said Leah D. Daughtry, a longtime member of the Democratic National Committee. “That can take you back to where we already are, or it can take you in a different direction.”

Still, not all states seemed prepared to jump into the fray.

“We have our hands full here as it is,” Ben Wikler, chairman of the Wisconsin Democratic Party, said in a text message. “There are no plans to apply!”

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