By Jarrett Renshaw
PHILADELPHIA (Reuters) – The Democratic National Committee on Saturday approved President Joe Biden’s change to the party’s 2024 primary calendar, giving black voters more say in the nomination process and charting an easier path for the Biden’s re-election bid awaited.
Saturday’s party vote replaces famed Iowa caucuses as the first in the nation with South Carolina, a state with far more black voters and one that saved Biden’s 2020 presidential campaign. It would be followed by New Hampshire and Nevada a week later, and then primaries in Georgia and Michigan.
The promotion of South Carolina and Georgia reflects decades of ongoing demographic balancing 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 motley coalition that helped bring Biden in power.
“The Democratic Party looks like America, and so does this proposal,” said Jaime Harrison, chairman of the Democratic National Committee.
The move met opposition from leaders in Iowa and New Hampshire, who were pushed back from the nomination calendar and vowed to challenge the new schedule and hold elections on their own schedule. Any changes to those timetables would require the support of Republicans who control the government and oppose the move.
Iowa and New Hampshire have kicked off nomination season for decades, and the process — in which candidates campaign for months in bars and homes — has become a cherished part of their social and political identities.
Iowa and New Hampshire risk penalties if they end up disobeying the party, such as banning candidates from campaigning in the state or losing delegates. Officials warned Saturday that this could hurt Biden’s chances of winning those states in 2024.
In Georgia, Democrats want to move the calendar forward, but Republicans in the state who control the government are against the move.
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’re going to leave with absolutely nothing settled,” said Scott Brennan, a former party chairman in Iowa.
The conference highlighted Biden’s tight grip on a party that was openly skeptical of its viability and concerned about its age ahead of the November midterm elections, only to see Democrats significantly exceed expectations and reset the narrative.
Already the oldest person to assume 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 elated for a Biden re-election when he addressed crowds in Philadelphia on Friday.
“Let me ask you a simple question: are you with me?” Biden asked the crowd of party faithful, cheers and a chorus of “four more years.”
(Reporting by Jarrett Renshaw and Diane Bartz; Editing by Daniel Wallis)