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Democrats Are Arguing over Their Nomination Process as Well

The Democrats are also battling over their nomination process, but not over the mechanics of allocating delegates. No one in the party wants winner-take-all. The battle is over the order the states vote. The Democrats have allowed two small, nearly all white, unrepresentative, rural states go first since Methuselah was in short pants. Many Democrats think it is way past time to change that. The DNC tasked the Rules Committee with coming up with a plan for 2024. It is on the agenda for their meeting on Dec. 1-3. The various options are very controversial, so there could be fireworks.

The biggest question is: "Who goes first?" Traditionally it has been Iowa, but since: (1) Iowa is now a red state and (2) Iowa holds caucuses (which are now out of favor) instead of a primary, and (3) Iowa botched the counting so badly in 2020 that we still don't know who really won, the Hawkeye State is likely to get the boot.

But which state gets to take its place? The current system, in which four small states from four different parts of the country go first, then comes—bam!—Super Tuesday, is actually very popular. So ideally, Democrats would like to replace Iowa with a different small Midwestern state that is blue and diverse. Only there aren't any. Damn. That's where the problem comes in. Michigan and Minnesota both want to be the new Iowa, but both are so much larger than the other early states (New Hampshire, South Carolina, and Nevada) that candidates might spend all their time there to reap a big delegate haul and ignore the other three. Also, neither one is really small, so any candidate who wants to contest either one would have to have a lot of funding already lined up in advance of the primaries. A candidate like Jimmy Carter would never make it if Michigan went first.

One solution is to replace Iowa with one of the M's but put it later in the queue. Nevada is a smaller and cheaper state, very diverse, and has much nicer weather for campaigning in January than either M. It wants to go first. Since it is heavily Latino, Latino Democrats feel that having Nevada go first would give an advantage to candidates who can attract Latino votes.

Even if Nevada goes first (far from certain) and Michigan goes fourth (also far from certain), there is the sticky issue of what to do about New Hampshire, which has a state law saying that its primary must be the first in the nation (but it allows caucuses earlier). Democrats don't have to pay any attention to New Hampshire state law, of course, and in both Michigan and Minnesota, Democrats hold the trifecta and could pass a similar law. However, Democrats will lose the trifecta in Nevada in January when Joe Lombardo (R) is sworn in as governor. Gov. Chris Sununu (R-NH) is hopping up and down yelling that New Hampshire will never yield its first-in-the-nation position, but some Democrats are saying that they don't plan to take their cues from a Republican who is thinking about running for president himself in 2024. Also, New Hampshire has very restrictive voting laws, including no early voting, no voting by mail, and barriers to prevent college students from voting there. On the other hand, New Hampshire is a swing state and taking away its privileged position might not play well with the voters there.

House Majority Whip Rep. Jim Clyburn (D-SC) would like to see the order be: Nevada, New Hampshire, South Carolina, and Michigan, but getting Sununu to accept that will be impossible. Still, Democrats have other options, such as swapping New Hampshire for Rhode Island. If New Hampshire sets its primary in February, the DNC could make a rule saying that any Democrat whose name was on the ballot there would not be allowed to take part in party debates. Then New Hampshire could hold its primary early on, but none of the serious candidates would be on the ballot, just a bunch of random citizens who filed as a joke. (V)

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