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DNC passes new primary calendar making South Carolina first and booting Iowa


The Democratic National Committee (DNC) officially passed their new early primary calendar on Saturday, which drastically shakes up the order of states to first cast votes in the presidential nomination process. 

The plan, which was supported by President Joe Biden, makes South Carolina the first state on the presidential primary calendar on Feb. 3, 2024, followed by New Hampshire and Nevada three days later. The proposal would also move battleground states Georgia and Michigan up in the calendar.

Iowa, whose caucus has kicked off the process for Democrats since 1972, is now out of the early window according to the DNC. 

Supporters of the calendar say the changes do a better job of representing minority voters that are the main bloc of voters for the party. In Biden’s December 2022 letter to the Rules & Bylaws Committee (RBC), which handles the primary calendar order, he says “it is time” to update the primary process “for the 21st century.”

“This calendar does what is long overdue. It expands the number of voices that can be heard, women and diverse communities are at the core of the Democratic party,” DNC Chair Jamie Harrison said. 

South Carolina Democratic Party Chair Trav Robertson told CBS News earlier this week that South Carolina’s position at first “not only transforms the way we nominate presidents, it transforms South Carolina.”

But for New Hampshire, Georgia and to an extent Iowa, the DNC’s full passage does not make their dates or place in the primary set in stone. 

Since 1979, New Hampshire has had a state law in the books about being the first primary in the nation and at least seven days before any other similar election. But it traditionally has held the first primary slot since 1920. 

In recent weeks, New Hampshire Democrats have been butting heads with the DNC and state Republicans about being unable to change their primary date. 

Less than a mile away from the DNC’s Winter Meeting in Philadelphia, New Hampshire’s Democratic Party held a press event on Friday to essentially reiterate there is no political will from state Republicans, who control every level of state government, to move their primary date and go after another primary. 

But while New Hampshire Democratic Party Chair Ray Buckley said the party would continue to work with the DNC in “good faith” on their primary date, he and other state party members also signaled very little appetite to find a way to change the date.

He shot down the possibility of changing the primary to a convention-style event for the nominating process, and talked openly about the consequences they’ll face from the DNC for skipping ahead and holding a primary before South Carolina’s such as losing 2024 convention delegates or preventing Democratic presidential candidates from campaigning in the state. 

Joanne Dowdell, a DNC committeewoman from New Hampshire, floated another consequence of punishing the state for skipping the line: Mr. Biden could be barred from filing for re-election in the state, which could “provide an opening to an insurgent candidate to rise in the state and potentially win the first presidential primary of 2024, something that no one in this room wants to see.”

Dowdell added she’s “frustrated” because “Republicans in the state are already weaponizing this proposed calendar and using it to attack Democrats.”

Mo Elleithee, a DNC RBC member from Washington, D.C., argued that New Hampshire’s place in the new primary calendar is no different than the longstanding Iowa-New Hampshire order.  

“There’s nothing’s wrong with New Hampshire. I think New Hampshire is great. It’s played an important role. We said keep playing the same important role you have always played. But there’s there are other states that deserve to also have their voices heard early in the process,” he told CBS News earlier this month 

Georgia Democrats have been trying to move their primary date, but are running into Republican resistance. Republican leaders say the primary has to be on the same day for both parties, and even if Georgia moved up the date, the Republican National Committee could penalize Georgia for doing so. 

“Our legal team has continuously stated that both party primaries are going to be on the same day and we will not cost anyone any delegates,” said Georgia Deputy Secretary of State Jordan Fuchs.

If the state is unable to comply, they would likely revert back to their primary slot on “Super Tuesday” or the first Tuesday in March of 2024. 

Iowa, which was kicked out of the window completely, also has a legal snafu ahead of them. Iowa has not yet finalized their primary date, but state codes say they have to hold their primary before any other state. 

State Republicans, who control the levers of state government, and the Republican National Committee have said they would not change the date. 

Iowa DNC committeeman Scott Brennan, a member of the Rules & Bylaws Committee, voted against the calendar. 

“We can pass this calendar, but we will leave here with absolutely nothing settled,” Brennan said at the general session meeting. 

New Iowa Democratic Party Chair Rita Hart said the lack of Democrats, or Mr. Biden, in the state during the 2024 primaries, will allow Iowa “to be flooded with Republican hopefuls sharing their damaging message to every corner of our state.”

Moving Iowa and New Hampshire, as well as the introduction of Georgia and Michigan, has opened up the window of possibility for other states to see themselves in the process. 

Democrats from Georgia, North Carolina, Michigan and Nevada sent a letter to the DNC earlier this week calling for a battleground state to be the first-in-the-nation primary, and argued with “the potential return” of former President Donald Trump “or Trumpism to the White House,” first-in-the-nation resources should be allocated to a state that will be competitive in the 2024 general election. 

The calendar changes could all become just an academic exercise or serve as a trial run for Democratic early primaries without Iowa and New Hampshire. The DNC says they can change the calendar, or at least has the option to, before every presidential cycle. 

Nevada Democrats, who campaigned in the summer of 2022 to be moved to the first slot, say they’ll be making a play again to go first in 2028.

“We’re going to do everything we can to make sure we do a really great job in 2024. And we’re going to put everything in place to show that Nevada is important, that our voices are important, that our diversity is important. And we’re going to make a case for that in 2028,” Nevada Democratic Chair Judith Whitmer said. 


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