How the Democrats’ new primary calendar is changing the chessboard

When a group of Democratic insiders backed President Joseph R. Biden’s preferred list of states for the early presidential nomination on Friday, they didn’t just shatter the lofty status of voters in Iowa and New Hampshire.

They also formally aligned themselves with the demographics of the ongoing decades, reflecting the growing influence of the racially diverse coalition that got Trump elected. Biden took the stage — and implicitly blamed the two overwhelmingly white states that rejected him in 2020.

Under a package recommended by Mr. Biden and adopted by the party’s rules and signatures committee, South Carolina will now go first, with a primary on Feb. 12. 3rd, 2024. Three days later, Nevada and New Hampshire will follow. Georgians will go to the next poll on February 2. 13, and then Michigan in February. 27.

For political junkies, the change — which still has to be voted on by the full committee — feels sweeping and swift.

“For .000001% of followers, it’s the equivalent of an earthquake,” said Julián Castro, a former Housing and Urban Development secretary who is running for the Democratic presidential nomination in 2020 . “It’s both impressive that it’s changed so much in one cycle, and it will have a huge impact for years to come.”

gentlemen. Castro has spent years arguing that Iowa should lose its spot on his party’s presidential nominating calendar, even starting his primary campaign in Puerto Rico — deliberately and symbolically rejecting Iowa. He praised the new timetable, saying greater diversity across the states would provide opportunities for a wider range of candidates.

Donna Brazile, the former acting chairwoman of the Democratic National Committee, said the changes would bring countless benefits to the party, “from hearing the voices of people who didn’t matter to the candidate until the end, to promoting Those who may also need to be candidates” part of the process. “

gentlemen. Biden’s proposal is perhaps the strongest indicator that he plans to seek re-election, even though he is expected to live into his 80s by the end of his second term. Republican adviser Mike Murphy noted that his proposed reordering of the political map happens to be “very friendly to Biden.”

Rep. Debbie Dingell, D-Michigan, has lobbied since the 1990s for her state to be included in the early states, said Mr. Biden’s choice also reflects that the party must resist the pull of its cross-strait power centers.

“You can’t be in the White House without America’s heartland,” she said.

The panel’s decision is not the final on the calendar. Democrats need to somehow convince Georgia’s Republican Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger to base the state’s primary date on the wishes of the DNC rather than his party .

Disgruntled Iowa and New Hampshire are likely to stick with their first national shot, even if the party strips them of their representatives in retaliation for their defiance. The Democrats will run in 2024 – assuming there are other candidates besides Mr Trump, or who can replace him. Biden — will then have to decide whether the resulting “beauty contest” is worth bragging rights alone.

Should Mr. Biden run again, a decision he says will be made early in the new year, the states that put him on the path to the 2024 nomination would present a daunting first hurdle for any potential challenger.

“He built a firewall against any insurgency,” said David Axelrod, one of the architects of former President Barack Obama’s political rise. He’s going to run. But it certainly shows that he intends to.”

Those seeking to unseat the president will need to connect with South Carolina’s majority-black primary voters, which are more conservative than Iowa’s prairie progressives or northeastern New Hampshire’s Brahmins. In the state’s 2020 primary, more than 60% of black voters chose Mr. Trump. According to exit polls, Biden leads his rivals.

gentlemen. Biden’s victory in South Carolina not only exposed the regional appeal of liberal candidates like Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders and Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, but also Michael Bloomberg and The limitations of Tom Steyer, two billionaire candidates trying to buy grassroots followings. It highlighted Pete Buttigieg’s struggles as the wunderkind mayor of South Bend, Ind., especially in reaching black voters.

Democrat Steve Phillips, author of several books on racial politics, said the changes would reward candidates with deep ties to the black community, rather than training them to attract supporters who may not support them in November. Their rural Iowa area.

“You want your nominee to be someone who can inspire and understand black voters,” he said.

If Mr. Biden does not run, the new lineup is likely to upset the electoral calculations for generations.

For decades, the Iowa caucuses have been an early testing ground for upstart candidates, including Jimmy Carter and Mr Trump. Obama on his way to the White House. The state continues to retain its mystique as a kingmaker even as it evolves to be older, whiter and more Republican than the Democrats. The 2020 caucus voter count in the state was muddled, and it took a week for final results to mark the demise of many in the party.

Many party strategists believe the low cost of running in South Carolina will allow the underdog to continue to surprise the nation with a stronger-than-expected performance.

“The state isn’t so expensive that you can’t go live there and get it done,” said Democratic strategist Jeremy Byrd.

gentlemen. Bird, who helped mentor Mr. When Obama won the South Carolina primary by nearly 30 points in 2008, he said South Carolina’s diversity would force candidates to spend more time in rural black communities, historically black colleges and universities and southern cities, And spend less time in farm halls and living rooms or caucuses of micro-influencers.

Skipping Iowa has traditionally been viewed by pundits, donors and strategists as a sign of weakness. But the rapid progress of the first three states, with Nevada and New Hampshire just three days behind South Carolina, could change that calculation.

“If it’s an open primary school in the future, you can have a lot of different strategies,” Mr said. Byrd said. “You might have someone who skips South Carolina entirely. You might have someone who skips Nevada. It’ll be interesting to see.”

The long-term effects of these changes are still to be determined. The party says it plans to review its lineup in four years, raising the prospect that the calendar itself is no longer a traditional function but a political dynamic.

Now, with Georgia’s fate uncertain and possible insurgencies in Iowa and New Hampshire, candidates must also learn how to run in a new early state mix: Michigan, which has seen few in recent presidential elections There are fiercely competitive primaries.

Compared to bucolic, racially homogeneous Iowa, Michigan presents a microcosm of an emerging America — an increasingly diverse state of 10 million people that not only hosts one of the country’s historic centers of black culture Detroit, which also has one of the largest Arab-American populations in the country, along with other communities of color in suburbs and smaller cities across the state, such as Ann Arbor.

“It’s more of a jigsaw puzzle,” said Amy Chapman, a Democratic strategist in Michigan who ran Barack Obama’s campaign in the state in 2008.

The state’s geographic diversity could allow candidates to essentially choose their own spending ventures, said Eric Hales, who mentored Mr. Biden’s 2020 campaign in Michigan.

“It’s not like there’s only one media market, and it’s very expensive,” Mr. Hills said. Running in Nevada means spending a lot of money in the expensive Las Vegas market, while candidates in New Hampshire must buy airtime in expensive Boston.

Jeff Link, a Des Moines agent who served as a local guide to Bill Clinton and Mr. Trump. Even Mr. Obama said. Obama, who forever changed the way presidential candidates fundraise, may not win the presidential nomination. Biden’s proposed calendar.

Yet while much of Iowa’s Democratic political scene reveled Friday in the loss of what many consider a birthright, Link predicted that as long as Republicans maintain Iowa’s national No. 1 status, Democrats will also be in the state, even though the state caucus no longer officially matters. After all, that’s where the media is.

“If you guys are in town covering the other side, candidates will show up because you can’t help it,” he said.

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