South Carolina, Get Ready For Your Democratic Primary Close-Up!

South Carolina, Get Ready For Your Democratic Primary Close-Up!

The Democratic National Committee officially declared South Carolina the big dog in presidential primaries Saturday. This ratifies President Joe Biden's own personal recommendation for the primary calendar.

Iowa is rightly demoted after a botched caucus in 2020. Presidential candidates will spend a year eating shrimp and grits or burgers with pimento cheese instead of corn dogs and pork chop sandwiches.

South Carolina kicks things off on February 3, 2024, followed by Nevada and possibly New Hampshire on February 6, then Georgia on February 13, and Michigan on February 27. After this, the remaining states are free to schedule their primaries whenever they want.


South Carolina’s Number One, In Democratic Primaries At Least!

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"This calendar does what is long overdue,” said DNC Chairman Jaime Harrison, who lost an expensive Senate race in South Carolina to Republican Lindsey Graham. "It puts Black voters at the front of the process in South Carolina. It keeps Nevada, where Latinos have been building power ... And it adds Michigan, the heartland, where unions built the middle class of this nation. And Georgia, the forefront of the new South."

He added, "The Democratic Party looks like America, and so does this proposal.”

During an interview Sunday with Jonathan Capehart, Rep. Debbie Dingell from Michigan agreed that the change is "long overdue" and said, "I don't believe any one state should have a lock on going first. I think everybody should have the opportunity for those candidates to visit their state."

Although Biden lost Iowa and New Hampshire, this is not some strong-arm move to ensure he wins the nomination again. It's highly unlikely anyone will challenge the sitting president. I wouldn't even frame it as simply paying a political "debt" for Rep. Jim Clyburn's key endorsement in the 2020 South Carolina primary. No, Biden is advocating for the future and taking a stance on whose voice should have the most impact during the primary process.

The diverse slate is good but the races are close enough together that losing in South Carolina isn’t necessarily devastating as a candidate could perform strongly a couple days later in the demographically different New Hampshire and Nevada. Conversely, winning in South Carolina but face-planting in New Hampshire and Nevada would also halt any momentum. Successful candidates would need to perform somewhat consistently across all key Democratic demos, which is the only way they can win the presidency.

Iowa and New Hampshire Democrats are obviously peeved. No one likes feeling less special. However, New Hampshire is at least a genuine swing state. After Obama decisively won Iowa twice, Hillary Clinton and Biden lost by roughly 10 points. Maybe they didn’t eat enough corn dogs.

Iowa Democratic Party Chair Rita Hart, with all due sturm und drang, said the removal of Iowa will have voters thinking Democrats have “turned their back on Iowa and rural America.”

Ma’am, Iowa is not the only state in the country, and you'll probably still go sooner than Oregon, which actually elects Democrats. If anyone believes Democrats moving up more diverse states in the primary calendar is a slap in the face to “rural America,” they're telling on themselves. Also, how are we even defining rural America here? South Carolina and Georgia are damn rural.

New Hampshire has a state law that requires that it hold the first primary. It's unclear how a state law can determine what other states do. It's as if Oregon passed a state law requiring that everyone drive Subarus. Former New Hampshire Gov. John Lynch said — perhaps while holding an apple in one hand and an orange in the other, "It’s like asking New York to move the Statue of Liberty from New York to Florida. I mean, that’s not going to happen. And it’s not going to happen that we’re going to change state law.”

From the New York Times:

And in a statement from New Hampshire’s federal delegation, Democratic lawmakers declared that “while President Biden and the D.N.C. continue to push a plan of political convenience, they will not be successful in the end,” a comment that underscored the bitter nature of the intraparty debate.

That's intense.

Republicans are not likely to alter the order of their own primaries, especially considering their measured "duck season/rabbit season" response to anything Biden does. Expect some level of chaos. But that's politics, folks.

[NBC News / New York Times]

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Stephen Robinson

Stephen Robinson is a writer and social kibbitzer based in Portland, Oregon. He writes make believe for Cafe Nordo, an immersive theatre space in Seattle. Once, he wrote a novel called “Mahogany Slade,” which you should read or at least buy. He's also on the board of the Portland Playhouse theatre. His son describes him as a “play typer guy."


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