Will South Carolina’s Democrats Keep Early Presidential Primaries?


Former Vice President Joe Biden celebrates after winning South Carolina’s Democratic presidential primaries in Columbia, SC on Saturday, February 29, 2020.

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A potential shake-up in the Democratic presidential nomination process could give South Carolina a rare opportunity to move higher on the party’s agenda and advance its standing among future White House candidates.

But first, the democratic leaders of the state want to make sure they don’t disappear completely from the group of early primary states.

Top South Carolina Democrats say they’re not taking anything for granted ahead of a key Democratic National Committee meeting this month, one that will assess whether the party’s much-researched presidential primary schedule requires significant changes — including the ability to change early status. from some states completely.

Ensuring South Carolina’s place as one of the first four or five nomination contests is the first and only priority, they say, especially amid an influx of states seeking to increase their influence in the presidential nomination process by securing a seat in the presidential nomination process. early calendar claim.

“There is no presumption of success or no presumption of failure on our part,” said Trav Robertson, chairman of the South Carolina Democratic Party. “We think we have a great story to tell, and we think our… [2020 primary] election went off without a hitch.”

Robertson declined to say whether the state would attempt to move up the primary calendar, saying it would be “extremely presumptuous” and “downright rude” to start jockeying for a position before the DNC’s Rules and Bylaws Committee on June 22. in Washington, DC begins to meet

At that meeting, Democratic officials from states that are running to participate in the early nomination contests will make presentations to committee members, explaining why they deserve inclusion.

The committee will then issue its advice on the new primary calendar in August, before the entire DNC considers its proposal in September.

“The fact is that other states are going to play a big part in this, and we need to do our best,” said Carol Fowler, a South Carolina DNC member who serves on the Rules and Bylaws Committee. “We need to remind people why South Carolina is a good choice.”

The Rules and Bylaws Committee voted earlier this year to review the nomination process and consider adding a fifth early state to the primary, up from one of the usual four states allowed to hold their nomination contest before all other states. (DNC officials emphasize that the commission can still choose to keep the list of early states at just four.)

Two other southern states, Georgia and Texas have applied to be included in the selected group of early matches, according to DNC officials. If either is elected by the committee, they could potentially threaten South Carolina’s place on the calendar, especially if members decide only one Southern state may leave early.

“I think we have a good chance,” said Fowler. “But it is certainly not a foregone conclusion. I don’t think anyone’s position is a foregone conclusion.”


But neutral observers consider such a scenario unlikely, citing the state’s penchant in recent election cycles for choosing the party’s final candidate and its hugely influential role in the 2020 presidential primaries.

Then-candidate Joe Biden revived his landmark candidacy with a commanding win in the state, finishing first after a dismal fourth and fifth place finish in Iowa and New Hampshire, respectively. (He finished a distant second to Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont in Nevada.)

The win convinced a handful of opponents, including Pete Buttigieg and Amy Klobuchar, to leave the race and support his candidacy, paving the way for a string of wins over the next Super Tuesday, effectively making him an elusive frontrunner in the race. .

The state’s Democratic voters also backed Hillary Clinton in 2016 over Sanders and Barack Obama over Clinton in 2008, key wins that ultimately helped propel both candidates to the party’s presidential nomination.

“There is an important story to tell,” Robertson said. “In addition, South Carolina has been very successful in determining the final candidate, as well as determining the President of the United States of America during the last several nomination processes.”

Even top DNC officials involved in the selection process readily admit that the state has a track record, and the way it managed its primaries four years ago is impressive.

“I’d say there’s a lot of good feeling in the Rules and Bylaws Committee, and in the DNC in general, about how South Carolina conducted its trial four years ago,” said Jim Roosevelt, a DNC member from Massachusetts and co. President of the RBC. “A lot of feeling it’s a representative state of an important region and an important mix of demographics.”


Speculation has instead centered on Iowa, whose 2020 caucuses — marked by long reporting delays and technology glitches — were widely viewed as a disaster.

The RBC held a series of listening sessions this year on the early states involved in the nomination process, with members acknowledging that many who spoke with the committee focused their comments on the state traditionally placed first in the presidential primaries.

“A fair number of people who come to us want to talk about the role of Iowa,” Roosevelt said. “We’re looking at the whole and Iowa is just a part of it.”

Roosevelt and other DNC members emphasize that they still haven’t made a decision about whether Iowa or another state will keep its seat. And even if the DNC were to remove the state, it would still have to set the new calendar for the nomination process — something Fowler says the committee hasn’t even begun to consider.

“It’s still unclear to me how much the members of the Rules and Bylaws Committee want to shake up the whole process,” Fowler said. “That’s why not everyone has an idea whether the order of the states is going to change, because that has not been a topic of discussion.”

But if Iowa loses its place, it could spark a new order of states. And South Carolina Democrats admit that if the state gets a chance to move up the ranks, the state may not pass up that opportunity.

“There’s going to be some shuffling about how the states fit into the month of February,” Fowler said. “And I’m sure that if a state had to leave sooner than in the past, South Carolina would eagerly volunteer.”

Alex Roarty has written about the Democratic Party since joining McClatchy in 2017. He has been a Washington campaign reporter since 2010, after covering Pennsylvania politics and state government during former Governor Ed Rendell’s second term.

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