The sequence and length of the top four states nominated — Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina and Nevada — matter because a slower drip of primaries and caucuses caused by an early start could lengthen the screening process.
We still don’t know who would benefit from longer time between contests, but Joe Biden’s win in the 2020 South Carolina primary led some of his biggest rivals to quickly drop out and endorse him ahead of the Super primary slate. Tuesday of March 3 , just three days later.
The 2024 GOP calendar could feature Super Tuesday up to four weeks after the South Carolina primary, which could throw a lifeline for failing candidates in early states.
One of the biggest questions of this cycle is about Iowa. In 2020, the Iowa caucuses were held on February 3, just one month before Super Tuesday. This time, the caucuses could realistically be as early as January 8, although the following week is considered more likely. Super Tuesday still wouldn’t come until March 5th.
The other three first states make up most of the moving parts. Democrats are attempting to elevate the South Carolina primary to first place in early February. But New Hampshire state law says their primary must come before any other primary, which could move the nation’s first primary to January.
« With Democrats moving states into their initial lineup, that’s created some pressure on states in the Republican process — namely Iowa and New Hampshire — to move to even earlier dates, » said Josh Putnam, an expert on Delegate selection governs who runs the Frontloading HQ website. « This is creating a spread that we haven’t seen in the last two cycles, when national parties were more or less on the same page. »
The Republican National Committee said the Iowa caucuses still go ahead of New Hampshire. But Republicans are trying to hold their own party-run caucuses, even as the state has a brand new primary in early February.
The early states calendar is far from settled at this point.
The democratic domino effect of 2024
Biden and the DNC wanted South Carolina to start this cycle first in part as a reward for the state paving the way for him to be nominated in 2020 and also to address criticisms of a lack of diversity in Iowa’s electorates and of New Hampshire.
In establishing their new schedule, the DNC not only awarded South Carolina the coveted No. 1, but also set a date for the first Saturday in February: February 3, 2024.
The new DNC calendar has designated Nevada and New Hampshire to hold the second and third primary together on February 6, three days later. But New Hampshire state law says it must hold the nation’s first primary at least a week before any other state, so South Carolina’s impending move to February 3 would likely prompt New Hampshire to go to January 23, the Tuesday of the previous week.
To meet the order of states established by the Republican National Committee, moving New Hampshire to January 23 would bounce Iowa to January 15, the Monday of the previous week.
But none of this is a done deal.
That’s in part because it’s unclear whether New Hampshire will be satisfied chasing Iowa. Iowa is also making some confusing changes: In another response to new National Democrat rules limiting caucuses, the Iowa state Democratic Party allows attendees to vote by mail.
To some, it sounds suspiciously like a primary that could propel New Hampshire into the lead again, even as a new bill signed last week by Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds, a Republican, requires caucuses to be held in person.
For now, the two states appear to be détente.
“It’s a caucus,” New Hampshire Governor Chris Sununu told my colleague Lisa Kashinsky in an interview this week after his announcement that he would not run for the GOP presidential nomination. « I spoke with [Reynolds] about this. And she says, ‘It’s a caucus. You’re still the first primary in the nation.’ I think we made it.
The next two states
South Carolina and Nevada remain. While South Carolina Democrats are set for Feb. 3, that doesn’t mean Republicans have to vote on the same day. This is contributing to the uncertainty surrounding the GOP calendar.
What happens in Nevada could prove crucial. As part of the DNC’s efforts to expand access to the nomination process, the Nevada state government instituted a new presidential primary election on the DNC-suggested date of February 6.
Nevada Republicans would rather keep their party-run caucuses and last week the state sued for an exemption. Even if they don’t receive an exemption, Nevada Republicans could declare the primary a non-binding « beauty contest, » with delegates to the GOP convention up for grabs only in the caucuses later in February.
But neither state has yet set a date for their Republican contests, though Nevada Republicans hope to hold their caucuses on Feb. 24.
One thing seems certain: The rapid transition that helped decide the 2020 Democratic nomination won’t happen this time around.
« You’ll end up with Iowa and New Hampshire in January, the South Carolina Republicans in late January or the first half of February, the Nevada caucuses apparently some time after, and then a gap for a couple of weeks » until until Super Tuesday, Putnam said.
More questions about the calendar
While the first four states are still evolving – e there’s a possibility Michigan becomes the fifth state in late February or early March with a possible hybrid of both primaries and caucuses—the next official slate is set for Super Tuesday: March 5. primaries that day, the most in any single day in the 2024 calendar: Alabama, Alaska, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Maine, Massachusetts, Minnesota, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Vermont, and Virginia.
There will also be other big multi-state primary days on the calendar, such as March 19 when Arizona, Florida, Illinois, Kansas and Ohio vote and likely April 2 for the northeastern states, even as efforts to stage a lockdown of states to hold primaries on that date are still pending.
Will the nomination still be up for grabs by then? The first states, every time they vote, will play a fundamental role in the process.