Though we’re still more than a year from the first votes being cast in the 2024 presidential cycle, and it’s unclear if there will even be a contest on the Democratic side, the battle between Joe Biden and the two states that traditionally kick off the process is getting real. Iowa and New Hampshire Democrats, who operate under state laws requiring them to remain the first caucus and primary (respectively) every four years, are spitting defiance at the Democratic National Committee’s Biden-dictated plans to move South Carolina to the first position and boot Iowa altogether from the list of “early” states voting before March 2023.
Iowans are clearly indicating that they just won’t comply with the plan. But New Hampshire has a weapon in the fight that Iowa doesn’t have: It’s a competitive state that can credibly threaten Biden and Democrats with the loss of its electoral votes. That became plain when the Granite State’s Democratic Party chairman Ray Buckley wrote a letter to the DNC suggesting the new primary calendar would impose an “undue burden” on it in fighting the 2024 general election:
The DNC is requiring New Hampshire’s Republican governor, Republican Senate Majority Leader and Republican House Majority to comply with Democrats’ demands to move the date of the primary. Already Republican Governor Chris Sununu has declared the proposal “dead on arrival.” Republican Senate Majority Leader Jeb Bradley echoed his sentiments, saying of the DNC’s request: “Not happening. Not happening at all.”
With these declarations, there is nothing the New Hampshire Democratic Party can do to comply with the DNC’s demands … Republicans are already blaming Democrats for losing New Hampshire’s First-in-the-Nation primary and touting Republicans as the only party that cares about Granite Staters.
Buckley also complained about the DNC’s requirements that early states allow robust early-voting opportunities, since New Hampshire is one of four states with no early in-person voting and no plans among Republican leaders to change its election laws.
New Hampshire Democrats are uniquely positioned among the states contending for early status to make a veiled blackmail threat of Biden forfeiting electoral votes. Nobody believes Iowa will go Democratic any time soon. The same is true of South Carolina. Michigan and Georgia are beneficiaries of the DNC’s plans, and thus have no reason to make threats. And while Nevada was making an effort to displace New Hampshire in the first spot before the DNC awarded it to South Carolina, Nevadans aren’t as entrenched in their early-state status, having only entered the charmed circle of states voting before March 1 in 2008.
At present the only thing that’s clear is that Iowa and New Hampshire Democrats are very likely to hold unauthorized early contests in 2024, at the same time as their states’ fully sanctioned Republican contests. The DNC will sanction both states with the loss of half or more of their delegates, and more importantly, will strip candidates who participate in these illicit events with loss of any delegates they win there, and could impose a ban from participation in DNC-authorized debates.
If Democrats knew from the start that Joe Biden was going to run unopposed for the 2024 nomination, perhaps the DNC could delay any major reform of the primary calendar until 2028. But that’s not likely to be a sure thing in time for the calendar to be set. And moreover, an unopposed Biden would presumably have an even stronger grip on the DNC’s planning for the primaries; if he wants to award South Carolina Democrats for saving his bacon in 2020 and thinks it’s high time to disrupt the Iowa–New Hampshire duopoly, who’s going to say no to him? Perhaps the voters of New Hampshire, with its Democrats saying to Biden: “See! We told you so!”
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