Relax, Granite State poll workers: There won’t be a Christmas presidential primary — at least not this year.
After months of waging a losing battle against President Joe Biden and the Democratic National Committee (DNC), the hapless Iowa Democratic Party has abandoned all hope of holding onto its place at the front of the presidential nomination calendar.
The Iowa GOP set the January 15 date for its caucuses months ago, and in the past Democrats would have followed suit. But the DNC stripped Iowa and New Hampshire of their places on the party’s official early voting primary calendar at the behest of Biden, who lost both states badly in 2020.
In an attempt to remain at — or at least near — the front of the line, Iowa Democratic Party chair Rita Hart had been pushing a plan to have Democrats participate in their traditional in-person organizational caucuses on January 15, but would use mail-in ballots to declare their preferences in the presidential race. A mail-in caucus is both an oxymoron and a violation of a new Iowa state law mandating in-person participation.
It also set off alarms in Concord, N.H. that a “mail-in caucus” is essentially a primary and would trigger the Granite State law requiring the state’s First in the Nation primary be held before any “similar contest.” Secretary of State David Scanlan has made it clear the Iowa Democrats’ plan could result in New Hampshire leapfrogging Iowa on the calendar.
In the end, the DNC refused to accept the Iowa plan, and on Friday the state party sent a letter declaring surrender.
In a conference call with the press Friday, Hart said, “We believe this delegate selection plan is definitely a compromise.”
That compromise will have Iowa Democrats voting for their presidential picks via mail beginning on January 12 and continuing through Super Tuesday, March 5, when the results will be announced.
Allowing the voting to continue is a key element of the plan, preventing the Iowa Democratic Party from simply releasing results before the New Hampshire primary. Scanlan declined to make any commitments on Friday, but he seemed pleased, calling it “a positive development.”
“I’ll be reviewing this, and we’ll see how the DNC reacts to it, and then at the appropriate time I’ll set the date for the New Hampshire primary. But I think this certainly goes a long way to protecting the traditional positions of the early nominating events of the Iowa caucuses followed by the New Hampshire primary,” Scanlan said.
It was yet another embarrassment for the embattled Iowa Democratic Party after the fiasco of 2020. Democrats were unable to declare a winner due to their mishandling of the vote tabulation. The results of the contest between Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Pete Buttigieg, Biden and the rest of the Democratic field were so unreliable, the Associated Press took the unprecedented action of refusing to declare a winner.
Soon after the state party’s failure, its chairman Troy Price resigned, only to later be hired by New Hampshire Democratic Party chairman Ray Buckley to serve as executive director of the Granite State’s Democratic Party.
Six months later, the DNC stripped New Hampshire of its First-in-the-Nation status.
Both parties in New Hampshire are ignoring the DNC’s edict and will hold the first primary of the 2024 cycle. With Democrats holding their contests on January 15 (Iowa) and February 3 (South Carolina), January 23 remains the most likely day for the contest.
Iowa Democrats tried to spin their defeat as a long-term victory.
“What’s really important is that we put ourselves in a good position for 2028,” Hart said.
Others have a different view.
“I hope this drives a stake in the heart of the Democratic Iowa Caucus,” said Jim Geraghty, senior political correspondent of National Review.