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Democrats’ new primary calendar remains unresolved. The party insists that’s OK

by Michael Nguyen
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primary overhaul

The Democratic Party’s efforts to implement a new primary calendar have encountered significant challenges and remain unresolved. Several states, such as New Hampshire and Georgia, are in opposition to the proposed changes. While South Carolina and Nevada are supportive, they are facing resistance from Republicans. Michigan, despite being controlled by Democrats, may have to cut short its state legislative session to comply with the new calendar.

Iowa, which is seeking to maintain its status as the first state to hold caucuses, is exploring options to comply with party rules. The process of implementing the revamped primary order, approved by the Democratic Party months ago to better represent diverse voters, has proven to be anything but straightforward. Party officials anticipate that the process will continue until the end of the year, even as the 2024 presidential race gains momentum.

David Redlawsk, a political science department chair at the University of Delaware, explains that the backlash and objections the party is facing were expected. Despite the challenges, the Democratic National Committee (DNC) remains relatively unconcerned, as President Joe Biden only faces minor primary challengers.

Biden’s advisers state that he does not expect to extensively campaign in the Democratic primary, focusing instead on the general election. However, the ongoing primary calendar drama could present difficulties for Democrats aiming to project unity in preparation for 2024 and potentially cause trouble in 2028, when the party plans to revisit its primary calendar.

Jim Roosevelt, co-chairman of the DNC’s Rules and Bylaws Committee, expresses that he was not surprised by the objections from Iowa and New Hampshire, as they are losing their leadoff positions. Roosevelt believes the committee can work around the challenges posed by Republicans in states adjusting to new rules or new calendar slots.

Despite the potential for electoral consequences and uncertainty, the DNC does not plan to modify the approved 2024 plan, which removed Iowa’s caucus from its leading position since 1972. South Carolina will go first, followed by New Hampshire and Nevada, with Georgia’s primary scheduled for February 13 and Michigan’s two weeks later. Most of the remaining states would vote on Super Tuesday in early March.

However, New Hampshire insists on maintaining its position as the first state to hold a presidential primary due to state law, and Georgia’s Republicans rejected calls to align their primary with the new Democratic date. South Carolina’s Republican primary was also delayed, and Nevada Republicans have filed a lawsuit to keep their party-run presidential caucus.

Iowa Democrats hope to regain a top-five position in the Democratic primary if Georgia and New Hampshire relinquish their spots. However, this scenario seems unlikely, according to Roosevelt. He also notes that Iowa was moved from its leading position due to demographics, which are unlikely to change.

New Hampshire remains firm in its decision to hold the nation’s first primary, despite the opposition. If New Hampshire proceeds as planned and Biden chooses not to campaign there, one of his challengers may gain support, potentially causing embarrassment for the president. Nevertheless, polling data indicates that Biden has a significant lead in the state’s primary.

Although the battle over the primary calendar will likely continue, political experts believe that change is now more likely, and the impact could be significant. The early states play a crucial role in conditioning the campaign and determining which candidates will likely lose in the initial rounds. Redlawsk emphasizes that the winnowing process would be different if states like South Carolina or Nevada took the lead instead of Iowa or New Hampshire.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about primary calendar challenges

What are the challenges faced by the Democratic Party in implementing the new primary calendar?

The challenges faced by the Democratic Party in implementing the new primary calendar include state rebellion, uncertainty, and resistance from Republicans. Some states like Iowa and New Hampshire are opposed to losing their leadoff spots, while Georgia and Michigan are adjusting to new rules. The process of reshuffling the primary order has proven to be complex and contentious.

More about primary calendar challenges

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