Critics have faulted the early Iowa presidential caucuses and the New Hampshire presidential primary as unrepresentative of our diverse nation.
It so happens that Joe Biden regularly came in fourth or fifth in those states when he ran for the Democratic nomination for U.S. president.
Biden and his Democratic Party allies associated with the Democratic National Committee are now doing something about this. Under the new Democratic presidential primary plan, the Iowa caucuses are eliminated — at least for the Democrats. South Carolina gets to hold the “first in the nation” primary. New Hampshire and Nevada get to go second. And two “new” states, Georgia and Michigan, are added to the list.
The new order will be South Carolina, New Hampshire, Nevada, Georgia and Michigan.
Why is Iowa eliminated and New Hampshire trailing in second place? One theory is that moderate Biden Democrats rightly believe the most liberal/left Democratic nominees, such as Sens. Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, would win in small states such as Iowa and New Hampshire.
These wins would make the left/liberals the front-runners and create a bandwagon effect on their behalf.
This surprising overhaul reform of the presidential primary calendar lends weight to the notion that Biden is seriously considering running for reelection in 2024, despite the national polling data that indicates most Americans have little interest in either Biden or Republican Donald Trump running again.
Iowans are proud of their presidential caucuses, but in 2000 the caucuses had technical glitches that caused vote counting to be delayed for nearly a week.
Iowa-style presidential caucuses are in-person local gatherings where neighbors debate and advocate for their various candidates for president. These caucuses can be spirited and exciting. But their main drawback is that older people, disabled people, and people working two jobs are typically unable to participate. That’s because these events invariably occur on cold and snowy winter nights and take about two hours to complete.
More and more presidential caucuses states, like Kansas, Hawaii and Maine, have shifted to presidential primaries. Another new trend has been for primary states to allow mail-in voting. The combination of presidential primaries and mail-in voting has resulted in more voter participation and usually more moderate voting outcomes.
Unfortunately, the Biden presidential primary reforms continue to schedule the early states — South Carolina, New Hampshire, and Nevada — in early February 2024. We think that is too early in the year. We would prefer the early states to be moved to April as a way of shortening the presidential selection process.
We also favor there being at least a week from one presidential primary to another.
Most parliamentary democracies can conduct their national elections in four or five weeks. Why can’t the United States consider holding its presidential primaries in much less than six months? The United States is an exceptional nation, but it is exceptionally slow at nominating and electing a president.
The new Biden list of early presidential primaries and caucuses was adopted by the rules and bylaws committee of the Democratic National Committee. It will be finally adopted and put in operation by the full Democratic National Committee sometime in the next few weeks.
South Carolina was put in the coveted first position, replacing Iowa, which was dropped completely from the early presidential primaries and caucuses list. That was partly a result of Iowa suffering the embarrassing computer reporting breakdown at the time of the 2020 Iowa caucuses that resulted in the results not being known until a week later.
For the record, Pete Buttigieg of Indiana narrowly won the 2020 Iowa Democratic caucuses.
The new South Carolina caucuses are scheduled for Feb. 3, 2024. Amazingly, this prime position for nominating a Democratic candidate for president was given to a solidly Republican state in general elections. In state gubernatorial, U.S. Senate, and U.S. presidential elections from 2010 to 2018, South Carolina averaged 58.9% Republican, making it the 12th-most Republican of the 50 states.
News analysts have been speculating that South Carolina was placed first because it was the first state to vote for Biden in the 2020 presidential primaries. Biden’s victory in South Carolina, which voted third in 2020, is said to be the key event that shifted the primaries and caucuses in Biden’s direction, won him the 2020 Democratic nomination, and put him in the White House in the November general election.
Voting second are New Hampshire and Nevada. Strangely, both these states are holdovers from the early primaries and caucuses calendar, and both are scheduled for the same day, Feb. 6, 2024. Both were battleground states in general elections from 2010 to 2018. New Hampshire averaged 50.1% Democratic and Nevada averaged 52% Republican.
New Hampshire has long prided itself on being “the first presidential primary in the nation.” It took second place to Iowa only because Iowa held “caucuses” rather than a “primary.” Nevada was placed on the primary and caucuses calendar in 2008 to give Hispanic voters, which are numerous in Nevada, increased influence in the early presidential nominating process.
It is a mystery why the rules and bylaws committee put New Hampshire and Nevada on the same voting day and only three days after South Carolina. Traditionally, a full week is allowed between one group of primaries and caucuses and the next. Maybe the committee just wanted to get New Hampshire and Nevada out of the way as quickly as possible.
Note also that, with just three days going by, the results from South Carolina (who won and who lost) will have less time to have an impact on the voting in New Hampshire and Nevada.
Georgia is to vote fourth. This is a new addition to the list of early presidential primaries and caucuses. Similar to South Carolina, Georgia is a generally Republican state that averaged 54.7% Republican from 2010 to 2018. News media analysts theorize it was added to the early list to, like South Carolina, produce a more moderate electorate to the benefit of incumbent Biden.
Georgia is scheduled for Feb. 13, 2024, one week after the New Hampshire and Nevada contests.
Michigan votes fifth. The second new state added to the primaries/caucuses early list, Michigan is scheduled for Feb. 27, 2024, two weeks after Georgia. It will provide the last early results before many states vote on Super Tuesday in March.
Michigan is a well-known battleground state with a voting record of 52.4% Democratic. It also has a strong labor movement presence. It is the most Democratic of all the five states on the early voting list. As in South Carolina and Georgia, Michigan has a substantial number of minority voters. Minority voters are less liberal than well-educated upscale white voters and thus make all three states more likely to support Biden if he runs for renomination and reelection in 2024.
This early list is not balanced regionally. There are two Southern states (South Carolina and Georgia), one New England state (New Hampshire), one Western state (Nevada), and one Midwestern state (Michigan). Conspicuously absent are the Northeast corridor and the West Coast, by far the two most populous and Democratic regions of the country.
What will the Republicans do in 2024? In the past, they followed the schedules Democrats laid out. This time they may stick to the previous schedule. It is not clear yet.
We applaud the movement to dismiss and discourage presidential caucuses. Presidential primaries are the preferred means to encourage greater and more diverse participation. And we agree that states such as South Carolina, Georgia and Michigan allow for more diversity than Iowa and New Hampshire.
But we would much prefer a later start and a more paced scheduling before the inevitable Super Tuesday, which allows a whole slew of states to weigh in with their preferences.
Note that the political “architects” behind this reform are plainly trying to: 1. Kill caucuses. 2. Promote moderate rather than leftist candidates. 3. Encourage diverse voices to be heard in the early presidential nominating process.
Biden and his supporters will probably succeed in enacting these significant changes. Yet we suspect there will continue to be calls for scrapping the existing process and replacing it with a national presidential primary — an open first election in which many candidates run followed by a runoff between the top two finishers. That system also has its political biases.
No system is flawless.
By the way, like it or not, the 2024 presidential election is now well underway.