Imagine if the Republican Party rigged its presidential nominating calendar to help Donald Trump slide past states where he’s politically weak. Would that go down easily with the GOP or the press corps?
That’s essentially what Democrats are doing to help President Joe Biden — to little protest or even much media notice.
The Democratic National Committee recently voted to revise the party’s nominating calendar to put South Carolina first in line, upending a half century of tradition. The Iowa caucuses, which have been first since 1972, will be relegated to the back of the bus.
After South Carolina’s primary on Feb. 3, 2024, the new order will be: New Hampshire and Nevada both on Feb. 6, followed by Georgia on Feb. 13 and Michigan on Feb. 27.
All of this is being done at the request — please don’t say orders — of the Biden White House. South Carolina rescued Biden’s candidacy in 2020 from defeat by Bernie Sanders, and black voters in that state and Georgia make up a large part of the Democratic electorate and Biden’s core support. Michigan’s primary was held on March 10 in 2020 and is another state where he won.
Biden finished fourth in Iowa and fifth in New Hampshire, where retail campaigning in restaurants and school auditoriums counts for as much as TV advertising. The last thing the White House wants is Biden at age 81 unscripted on the hustings.
This insider political play isn’t going down well in the Granite State, which has a law stating that it must be the first primary. The state’s Democrats aren’t happy, and perhaps GOP Gov. Chris Sununu and the Legislature will respond by moving the primary ahead of Feb. 3, though maybe the DNC will then kill its primary.
The political parties set their own nominating rules, subject to state law. The main benefit of the early New Hampshire and Iowa contests is that they give voters a chance at close-up vetting, and they give long-shot candidates a chance to elevate an issue or emerge from obscurity.
The winners don’t always go on to be nominated, much less take the White House. But they are a different kind of candidate test than debates and TV advertising.
The risk for Democrats is that by greasing the wheels for Biden, they will miss such a signal from the electorate. The polls are showing that even most Democrats prefer another nominee in 2024.
But the president is plowing ahead, perhaps because he thinks Republicans will be foolish enough to nominate Trump, who would be the easiest opponent to beat. But what if they don’t?