WASHINGTON — New Jersey bills itself as a “microcosm of the country.” Washington State emphasizes its diverse communities and robust postal voting process. And as Iowa’s status as the home of the nation’s first presidential election looks increasingly weak, other Midwestern states are seeing an opening.
Just over two years after Iowa’s disastrous Democratic primaries, in which officials struggled to deliver results, party officials across the country are increasingly weighing whether to pursue their own primary seats in the early state — a dynamic set to accelerate quickly. .
On Wednesday, members of the Democratic National Committee’s powerful Rules and Bylaws Committee voted to initiate an application process that will determine which states will host the first presidential nomination games in the 2024 cycle. The result could be an overhaul of how the party’s presidential candidate is elected and change the order of the constituencies that have the greatest influence.
The resolution passed on Wednesday set out a framework for applicants, and committee leaders also worked out a timeline for reviewing applications, which must be submitted by June 3. Committee recommendations regarding up to five early-vote states — an increase from the traditional four — are expected in July, with final approval for a vote at the Democrats’ summer meeting.
Criticism of Iowa and, to a lesser extent, New Hampshire — two states that have long opened the presidential nomination process — has grown louder in recent years from those who view them as unrepresentative of the party’s diverse electorate. Iowa has faced particular criticism, given its high-profile missteps and the state’s growing propensity for Republicans in general elections.
On Wednesday, members of the committee gathered at a hotel not far from the White House, home of the man who finished fourth in Iowa and fifth in New Hampshire, yet became president of the United States. President Biden won the nomination based on later-voting, more diverse states that, in some cases, also had more centrist primary voters.
He took a distant second in Nevada before making a comeback in South Carolina and then dominating the games on Super Tuesday. Those first four early states were able to hold their positions, but now they must apply to do so.
The resolution — which involved a lengthy amendment process — urged an emphasis on racial, ethnic, geographic, and economic diversity and labor representation; cited logistical questions about feasibility and transparency; and raised issues of competitiveness in the general election. Some of those terms are open to interpretation.
“Essentially, we focused on competitiveness in the Electoral College,” said James Roosevelt Jr., the committee’s chairman. “They can be useful in several ways. They can be useful because they help a Democratic candidate gain popularity in that state, or because they have a track record of electing the first person in their state to be ultimately effective in the general election.”
The committee now has a week to formally notify states of the application process, but some have already moved to show their interest. For example, Nevada, formerly a caucus state, advocates primarily as a state-run primary. Top Nevada Democrats sent personalized letters to members of the rules committee describing a “battle-tested early state that represents the future of the Democratic Party,” according to two copies of the letter obtained by DailyExpertNews. (NBC News previously reported on Nevada’s letter.)
“As a highly competitive battleground with strong union representation and one of the most diverse voters in the country, our state offers a real test of who can put together a winning coalition,” said the letter, signed by top elected Democrats in the state.
“I was in Iowa last time, and that was just a bunch of confusion,” said Representative Dina Titus, a Nevada Democrat who signed the letter calling the push “a pretty unified effort by the state,” adding: “It makes sense to pick a more representative state to go first.”
In addition to the New Jersey Democrats presenting their state to the national party chairman, the Michigan and Nebraska Democrats are also advocating for their cause.
“The most interesting thing will be what’s happening in the Midwest, as a lot of people think Iowa might not be one of the first five states to move forward,” said Tina Podlodowski, the Democratic president in Washington state. She said her state is “definitely” considering applying.
Ken Martin, the chairman of the Minnesota Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party and a vice chairman of the DNC, did not rule out a possible early state offer for Minnesota. Instead, he emphasized his interest in ensuring representation in the Midwest, which would become more urgent if Iowa lost its spot.
“I think it’s likely Minnesota will consider being part of this conversation,” he said. “I don’t make those decisions alone, but I bet Minnesota will be in the mix.”
Scott Brennan, a member of the Iowa Democratic National Committee who voted against the resolution, said on Wednesday the state plans to defend its historic status.
“I’m going to take people at their word that they will be open-minded about the process,” he said, adding that Iowa would apply. “The Iowa caucuses were a big part of that process in the early state.”
And it’s certainly possible there won’t be any changes to the traditional lineup eventually — though many DNC members are bracing for a deluge of interest from other states.
“The country is changing, has changed. The demographics of the party have changed. People want to make sure the calendar reflects those changes and the reality of the party,” said Leah D. Daughtry, a senior Democratic National Committee member. “That can take you back to where we are already, or it can take you in a different direction.”
Still, not every state seemed willing to jump into the fray.
“We have our hands full with this,” Ben Wikler, the chairman of the Wisconsin Democratic Party, said in a text message. “No plans to apply!”