Democrats move South Carolina’s primary to start of campaign
The Democratic National Committee on Saturday approved a change in the order US states have their primaries in the 2024 electoral calendar so that South Carolina will go first, giving Black voters a more decisive say in who the party’s nominee for president will be.
The party vote during a meeting in the city of Philadelphia replaced the Iowa caucuses as the first in the nation primary. South Carolina has a far greater number of Black voters.
Jaime Harrison, chair of the Democratic National Committee, told Reuters, “The Democratic party looks like America, so does this proposal.”
When the change was approved, hundreds of senior party members in attendance stood on their feet to applaud and cheer the changes.
As a state, South Carolina has also backed Republican candidates at every presidential election since 1980, although Democrats have recently closed the gap and target it as a potential swing state they could win one day.
What does the new 2024 primary season look like?
After South Carolina on February 3, voters in New Hampshire and Nevada will go to the polls three days later. Primaries are then scheduled for Georgia and Michigan.
President Joe Biden championed the changes and their approval signals a party that is willing to stand behind the incumbent who would be the oldest president in US history if he is sworn in for a second term at age 82.
In December, Biden addressed a letter to the rules committee of the Democratic Party. “We must ensure that voters of color have a voice in choosing our nominee much earlier in the process and throughout the entire early window,” he wrote.
In 2020, he won the South Carolina Democratic primary, rejuvenating his campaign and ultimately landing him the candidacy.
South Carolina and Georgia are being bumped up in the primary cycle to give Black voters a more decisive influence on who becomes the party’s nominee.
The states with early primaries have outsized influence on the party’s selection of its nominee as those who fail to gain traction in the earliest primaries often drop out soon after when fundraising efforts collapse.
In Georgia, Democratic Party officials hoped to move up their primary date but the Republicans who are in control of the state currently remain opposed.
Georgia and New Hampshire have until June to agree to the primary calendar changes.
The move is also said to highlight the racially diverse coalition that propelled Biden to the presidency in 2020. Two majority white states, Iowa and New Hampshire, that ultimately went to former President Donald Trump in the last election cycle will have their influence reduced.
How have political leaders in Iowa and New Hampshire reacted?
Political leaders in those two states are opposed at the idea of seeing their influence reduced by having later primaries. They vowed to defy party leadership and hold primaries on their own timeline.
Iowa and New Hampshire have signaled the start of the presidential campaign season for decades.
In both places, the primaries are a cherished tradition that sees the various candidates traipse across the state and into coffeeshops, living rooms and diners in an effort to interact with and cajole regular people to the polls to support them.
Both states would face penalties from the national party for making unapproved alterations to the primary calendar.