DNC panel members question whether 2024 Iowa Caucuses should go first

Democrats around the state rallying ahead of 2020’s first-in-nation caucuses. [Photo courtesy Iowa Democratic Party]

By O. Kay Henderson, Radio Iowa
A group of national Democratic Party officials has begun debating whether Iowa’s Caucuses should be the first event in the 2024 presidential nominating process. None of the speakers at a Democratic National Committee Rules and Bylaws Committee meeting this afternoon defended Iowa’s lead-off position.

Panel member Elaine Kamarck, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institute, said there’s “nothing written in stone” that says Iowa’s Caucuses and New Hampshire’s Primary should be first and she says no one who set up the current system in 1972 expected the two lead-off states to “winnow the field” of potential candidates.

“The beginning is important, right? The early states are important,” she said. “…I think this will be a topic of rich discussion and we can start from scratch.”

Molly Magarik, a Democrat from President Biden’s home state of Delaware, said the “pages and pages of rules” for how a caucus should be run aren’t welcoming to would-be voters.

“Obviously there’s a lot of nostalgia and there’s a lot of: ‘This is how we do things,’” Magarik said. “…A caucus is incredibly intimidating to people.”

Mo Elleithee, head of Georgetown University’s Institute of Politics, experienced Iowa’s Caucuses as the traveling press secretary for Hillary Clinton’s 2008 campaign. As a member of the DNC’s Rules panel, he’s urging the party to make sure the first set of early states hold primaries, represent the diversity of voices in the Democratic Party and will be battleground states in the General Election.

“In my opinion and I’m sure we’re going to be talking about this more, three of the four current ‘early window’ states satisfy at least two of those criteria. One does not satisfy any of them,” he said, “at least in recent years.”

Iowa was considered a swing state in the first four presidential elections of this century, but not in 2016 or 2020. In a written statement, the Iowa Democratic Party’s chairman said Iowa plays an important role in the presidential nominating process and he will continue to fight for Iowa’s Democratic Caucuses to remain first.

The chairman of the Iowa Republican Party has said he’s been assured by national party leaders that Iowa’s Caucuses will be the first event on the GOP’s 2024 presidential nominating calendar.