WASHINGTON – DFL Chairman Ken Martin, who had fought to have Minnesota host an early presidential primary, gave up in the quest late Thursday because of reports that President Biden preferred that South Carolina and other states go first.
The Washington Post first reported, based on anonymous Democratic sources, said Biden wanted South Carolina — the first state that gave him a decisive primary win in 2020 — to hold the first in the nation presidential primary in 2024, followed by New Hampshire and Nevada, then Georgia and Michigan.
“I would like to extend my congratulations to Michigan and the other early states. I wish them luck in conducting their 2024 presidential primaries,” Martin said in a statement. “Their success is now all of our success. While I am disappointed that Minnesota was not selected to be an early presidential primary state, I recognize how difficult this decision was and I appreciate all the work that the Democratic National Committee put into making it.”
News of Biden’s preferences were made public as members of the DNC’s Rules and Bylaws Committee gathered at a Washington, D.C., hotel Thursday evening for a dinner to kick off a two-day meeting to decide on a new Democratic presidential primary calendar.
The committee has not released its recommendations yet, which would be voted on by the full DNC in February. But it is not likely to ignore the president’s wishes. The co-chairs of the Rules and Bylaws committee announced Biden’s preferences at the party’s Thursday night dinner.
The DNC scrapped its early primary calendar this year, opening up the process so all states could apply to hold early contests. The Rules and Bylaws Committee whittled down the list of eligible applicants to 16 states and Puerto Rico.
The early presidential primaries, held for years in February in Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina, gave those states a disproportionate ability to narrow the field of candidates for the White House. The early primary states also receive national attention to their issues and an economic boost, because they are flooded with advertising dollars and on-the-ground campaign organizing.
Minnesota’s DFL had battled Michigan Democrats to replace Iowa as the first state in the Midwest to hold a presidential primary.
Martin sent the DNC’s Rules and Bylaws Committee a letter this week that said “Minnesota is the consensus candidate in the Midwest region.”
“Minnesota is more diverse and has a stronger party infrastructure than Iowa, but unlike Michigan, it is not large enough that it would overshadow the other early primary states or make it harder and more expensive for candidates to compete in during this critical window,” Martin’s letter said.
Martin said Michigan’s 139 Democratic delegates to the 2024 convention would be nearly as big as all three of the current early states – New Hampshire, Nevada, and South Carolina – combined, prompting presidential candidates to ignore other, smaller states in favor of winning that much larger basket of delegates.
Martin also said Michigan’s media market is much more expensive than Minnesota’s and voter outreach in Michigan is more expensive, making it more difficult for candidates with limited funds to campaign.
But on Thursday, Martin thanked “every state that participated in the process of updating and strengthening our presidential primary calendar,” and said the DFL would now turn its attention to preparing to hold its Democratic presidential primary on the day it traditionally does, Super Tuesday. Usually held the first Tuesday in March, Super Tuesday is a day when the greatest number of primary states hold their elections.
In a letter to the DNC this week, Biden said he did not want an early primary state to hold caucuses, like Iowa has for decades. But Iowa bungled its 2020 caucuses after a new reporting app suffered technical problems, delaying results and producing no clear winner.
Biden also said he wanted states with large union representation to be represented in the nation’s first presidential primaries. But, perhaps more than that, because South Carolina is a “right to work” state that is hostile to labor union organization, the president sought diversity in the states that would lead the nation in picking the next Democratic presidential candidate.
“We must ensure that voters of color have a voice in choosing our nominee much earlier in the process and throughout the entire early window,” Biden wrote in his letter to DNC members. “As I said in February 2020, you cannot be the Democratic nominee and win a general election unless you have overwhelming support from voters of color — and that includes Black, Brown and Asian American & Pacific Islander voters.”
Here’s the schedule of early primaries proposed by Biden:
- South Carolina on Feb. 6
- New Hampshire and Nevada on Feb. 13
- Georgia on Feb. 20
- Michigan on Feb. 27