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DNC votes to shake up presidential primary calendar

DNC votes to shake up presidential primary calendar

The new calendar elevates South Carolina to the first-place position in the primary calendar, replacing the Iowa caucuses.

Democratic National Committee chair Jamie Harrison speaks.

Democratic National Committee chair Jamie Harrison speaks before introducing U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris at the Democratic National Committee winter meeting on Feb. 3 in Philadelphia. | Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images

Members of the Democratic National Committee overwhelmingly approved a dramatic shakeup of the party’s presidential nominating calendar Saturday morning, reordering what states will vote first in primaries and upending a century of political tradition.

The new calendar — recommended by President Joe Biden and his advisers and approved by a majority vote of the DNC — elevates South Carolina to the first-place position in the primary calendar on Feb. 3, replacing the Iowa caucuses, which held the coveted perch for a half-century.

Under the new schedule, New Hampshire and Nevada would jointly host their primaries three days later on Feb. 6, followed by Georgia on Feb. 13 and Michigan on Feb. 27, two brand-new states added to the early window. But several hurdles remain to ultimately implement this calendar.

Iowa, which has held its caucuses first since 1972, will fall out of the early nominating process altogether.

“We are overdue in changing this primary calendar,” said Michigan Rep. Debbie Dingell, who has led her state’s effort to join the early window for almost two decades. “No one state should have a lock on going first.”

The DNC reopened the presidential nominating calendar earlier this year, under pressure from both inside and outside the party to diversify the voters who get to participate early in the process. In December, Biden recommended his preferred slate, giving a particular nod to states like South Carolina and Georgia that gave him a boost in his 2020 presidential bid. It also nearly eliminates any path for a potential Democratic primary challenge ahead of 2024 by elevating states that represent the president’s base of support.

The vote comes on the heels of a rare joint appearance by Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris in back-to-back speeches Friday night, previewing the likely 2024 ticket as the pair road tested campaign one-liners and themes of attack against the GOP.

But there are still logistical challenges that Democrats must face before implementing the new lineup, particularly around New Hampshire and Georgia, where Republican-controlled legislatures and governors stand in the way of changing the primary dates.

Resistance out of New Hampshire is particularly fierce, where elected officials and party leaders insist that they cannot comply with the DNC’s new calendar because it directly conflicts with state law, which requires them to host the first presidential primary one week before any other state. They have vowed to hold their contest first regardless of the DNC’s decision.

On Saturday morning, the New Hampshire and Iowa Democrats made a final appeal to DNC members, urging them to reconsider the proposal. But it did not change the vote.

“This is not about New Hampshire’s history or state pride. This is about a state law that we cannot unilaterally change,” said Joanne Dowdell, who represents New Hampshire on the Rules and Bylaws Committee.

She also raised the possibility that if Biden doesn’t file in New Hampshire, a potential sanction against the state, “it could provide an opening for an insurgent candidate” who could “potentially win the first presidential primary of 2024, something that no one in this room wants to see.”

But some DNC members pushed back on New Hampshire, including Leah Daughtry, a Rules and Bylaws committee member who said she’s “heard a lot about a state law” that “somehow gives some people a divine right of privilege,” but “none of that is more important than what the party says it wants in its process.”