The 2024 Democratic Primary Calendar Debate

Democrats meet this week to set the 2024 primary calendar.

Via WaPo: Democrats battle over 2024 nomination calendar as Biden weighs options.

with just days left before Democrats gather on Dec. 1 to decide their presidential nominating order, it remains unclear just how the calendar will sort out. The most important voice in Democratic politics, that of President Biden, has yet to weigh in, and many members of the Rules and Bylaws Committee responsible for deciding the outcome continue to await word from the White House.

The battle appears to be over whether Nevada might leapfrog New Hampshire, with some possibilities that larger states, like Michigan and Minnesota might make a play. Meanwhile, what about South Carolina?

A huge obstacle is that New Hampshire has a law requiring their primary to be seven days earlier than anyone else’s. The article itself makes everyone come across as a bit childish.

The fundamental problems are with the primaries themselves rather than who goes first. Who goes first can certainly matter, although probably not as much many argue, although I have to admit it doesn’t make a ton of representative sense for one of the least diverse states (New Hampshire) in the union to be so pivotal. I also question the logic that small states forcing candidates to engage in diner visits and other “retail politics” activities is the best way to decide who should be a party’s pick to compete for the most powerful office in the world.

The fact that the 2024 Democratic primaries will be uncontested raises the question of whether this is the best or worst year to make a change. It could be the best insofar as it really won’t matter if Biden runs for re-election (which is the most likely outcome), as he will be unopposed and the primaries simply won’t matter. It also means that if NH plays legal leapfrog over whomever the Democrats choose to officially go first there won’t be any actual hard choice for Biden to make in terms of campaigning.

But on the other hand, if the party makes a switch in 2024 would anyone notice? After all, if a tree falls during an uncontested primary, does it make a sound in either Nevada or New Hampshire?

I would love to see a more serious discussion of nomination reform. If we have to stick with primaries I think I would prefer some sort of series of Super Tuesdays rather than the weird notion that tiny states ought to be culling the field, but I do not have especially strong views on exactly what that should look like.

Quite honestly I expect the final result to be a maintenance of the status quo since trying to find a way to overcome New Hampshire’s primary law will be seen as too much trouble.

FILED UNDER: 2024 Election, US Politics, , , , ,
Steven L. Taylor
About Steven L. Taylor
Steven L. Taylor is a Professor of Political Science and a College of Arts and Sciences Dean. His main areas of expertise include parties, elections, and the institutional design of democracies. His most recent book is the co-authored A Different Democracy: American Government in a 31-Country Perspective. He earned his Ph.D. from the University of Texas and his BA from the University of California, Irvine. He has been blogging since 2003 (originally at the now defunct Poliblog). Follow Steven on Twitter


  1. Sleeping Dog says:

    The focus is on the Dems, but the R’s typically run their primary at the same time and to the best of my knowledge, they have no interest in changing the calendar.

    As to NH’s lack of diversity, one can make the argument that the early primaries should represent various interest groups in the parties. So the rural primary could be Iowa (or another farm state, if they continue with a caucus), Nevada, Latino, SC, Black, while NH represents white, college educated and middle class. NV, also needs to drop the caucus.

    The only thing that will force NH off their first, is if the candidates don’t show. Given that the only power that the party has is non-recognition of delegates and perhaps some money, there’s little to dissuade hopefuls from tramping through the snow.

  2. Michael Cain says:

    @Sleeping Dog: Nevada changed their law and will have primaries in 2024. Scheduled (by law) for the first Tuesday in February.

    ETA: Nevada’s a vote-by-mail state. Don’t know how early voting will start.

  3. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    I question the logic of having 50 separate primaries on, potentially, 50 different dates altogether, but I’m looking for a way to make the process shorter than 2 years. I also have no dog in this fight, so the parties can do whatever will benefit them the most. It’s not as if voters or policy or things like that are of primary importance in the process, after all.

  4. Sleeping Dog says:

    @Just nutha ignint cracker:

    Two years, how about 4. Cruz, DeSantis and a couple of others, came through NH in 2021. Given how weak the parties are, it is hard to see how it can be compressed. But I agree, that we would benefit from a shorter campaign cycle.

    How many articles have you seen already that start out to the effect of “it’s too early to talk about 2024” and then proceed to do so.

  5. Michael Cain says:

    I’m interested in seeing whether they decide to exclude vote by mail states — particularly those that allow late ballots — from the early positions. Say such a state has election day on Feb 6, 2024, but sends out ballots three weeks before that and accepts ballets until Friday or Saturday that week.