South Carolina’s newly anointed status as the Democrats’ first-in-the-nation primary could be over before it begins, with some in the party eyeing up a consensus state, flying in the face of President Joe Biden’s wishes.
In early December, Democrats shook up their 2024 presidential primary calendar after the Democratic National Committee’s rule-making arm voted to dethrone Iowa and replace it with South Carolina, followed by Nevada, New Hampshire, Georgia, and Michigan.
However, the motion still must be voted on by the entire DNC before going into effect.
Some Democrats are concerned that selecting South Carolina, a recommendation supported by President Joe Biden, was politically motivated. Biden won handily in South Carolina in 2020, but finished fourth in Iowa, fifth in New Hampshire, and a very distant second in Nevada. The president has not officially announced his plans for reelection.
Adam Green, co-founder of the Progressive Change Campaign Committee, said in an interview with the Hill that conversations are still being had behind closed doors.
“I think there’s a process right now of conversations happening, people getting ducks in a row, and seeing if there’s a collective effort to make this push,” Green said.
Green said the White House put people in a tight spot because nobody wants to be fighting with the president about the calendar.
“The obvious move is for people to say together that it should be a diverse state that is competitive in the general election like Nevada, Georgia, and North Carolina, and let the White House choose which one they want to go first,” he said.
Democrats are eyeing Georgia in particular, after Sen. Raphael Warnock (D) won reelection in his runoff against Republican challenger Herschel Walker.
“Georgia, I think, makes a lot of sense because now it is a major swing state and reliably Democratic in the last couple cycles,” one former campaign worker who advised a presidential candidate in 2020 told the Hill.
However, the worker said, there are some drawbacks to selecting Georgia for first-in-the-nation, as it is a large state and the Atlanta media market often tends to push smaller, lesser-known candidates to the side.
“It’s just very expensive. That’s not a consideration that should be easily dismissed,” the former campaign worker said. “You couldn’t be an insurgent candidate and win there.”
Iowa has been hailed by its politicians and party arms as a first-in-the-nation state that allows smaller upstart candidates to shine. Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) attributed wins for Presidents Barack Obama and Jimmy Carter to their stop in Iowa.
However, the diversity of voters played a huge role in deciding the makeup for the 2024 calendar. Iowa, which ascended to the leadoff state in 1972, is about 90.1% white, compared to 68.6% in South Carolina, according to the census. Nevada is home to many black and Latino voters, a bloc in which Republicans are making significant inroads.
Nevada is also a top contender in conversation as well. Many attribute Biden’s sweeping win in South Carolina to his success in Nevada. Despite coming in second behind Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT), it was considered a burst of momentum from his lackluster performances in Iowa and New Hampshire.
“[Biden] wouldn’t have won South Carolina without Nevada. It’s not a harmful state to him,” said the former campaign adviser, who reportedly spent considerable time working Nevada. “I don’t really understand why they screwed Nevada so much.”
The former staff said Nevada may be the key to significant wins for Democrats moving forward.
“Not only is it very representative, it’s heavily Latino, which South Carolina, by the way, is not at all, it is also heavily African American,” the former staffer said. “It’s a lot cheaper, it’s much more working-class, it’s out west in the Sun Belt, which is probably the future of how we’re going to win elections at the presidential level.”