PHILADELPHIA (Reuters) – The Democratic National Committee on Saturday approved President Joe Biden’s shakeup of the party’s 2024 primary calendar, giving Black voters a greater say in the nominating process and carving an easier path for Biden’s expected re-election bid.
The party’s vote on Saturday replaces the famed Iowa caucuses as the first in the nation with South Carolina, a state with significantly more Black voters and one that saved Biden’s 2020 presidential campaign. It would be followed by New Hampshire and Nevada one week later, and then by primaries in Georgia and Michigan.
The promotion of South Carolina and Georgia reflects a demographic balancing decades in the making for the Democratic Party at the expense of two largely white states that rejected Biden in 2020. It also underscores the growing power of the racially diverse coalition that helped bring Biden to power.
“The Democratic party looks like America, so does this proposal,” said Jaime Harrison, chair of the Democratic National Committee.
The move faced opposition from leaders in Iowa and New Hampshire, who are being pushed down the nominating calendar and vowed to defy the new schedule and hold elections on their own schedule. Any change to those calendars would require support from Republicans who control government and oppose the move.
Iowa and New Hampshire have kicked off the nominating season for decades and the process – in which candidates campaign for months in coffee shops and homes – has become a cherished part of their social and political identities.
Iowa and New Hampshire face penalties if they end up disobeying the party, such as banning candidates from campaigning in the state or losing delegates. Officials warned on Saturday that could hurt Biden’s chances to win those states in 2024.
In Georgia, Democrats want to move up the calendar, but Republicans in the state who control government are opposed to the shift.
Georgia and New Hampshire have until June to comply with the new calendar, but few expect that to happen.
“We can vote on this calendar, we can approve this calendar, but we will leave here with absolutely nothing settled,” said Scott Brennan, a former party chair in Iowa.
The conference underscored Biden’s tightening grip on a party that was openly skeptical of his viability and concerned about his age heading into November’s midterm elections, only to see Democrats significantly outperform expectations and reset the narrative.
Already the oldest person to take on the role of president, Biden would be 82 if sworn in for a second term.
Biden’s primary calendar saw overwhelming approval through a voice vote and party committee members appeared enthusiastic for a Biden re-election when he addressed the crowd in Philadelphia on Friday.
“Let me ask you a simple question: Are you with me?” Biden asked the crowd of party faithful, to cheers and a chorus of “four more years.”