Democrats Want 2008 Primaries Shuffled

Italian team Azzurra competes in Nice southeastern France, Monday, Nov. 16, 2009, during the sailing match racing competition "The Louis Vuitton Trophy."
AP Photo/Lionel Cironneau
National Democrats recommended Saturday that the party wedge Nevada between the traditional one-two punch of Iowa and New Hampshire in the leadoff nominating contests for president in 2008.

South Carolina would move up in the election calendar, too, according to plan that awaits final action next month by the Democrat National Committee.

Democrats envision a 2008 lineup that begins with Iowa's caucuses on Monday, Jan. 14, followed by Nevada's caucuses, probably on Saturday, Jan. 19. New Hampshire would hold its first-in-the-nation primary on Tuesday, Jan. 22. South Carolina's primary probably would come a week later.

Michigan and other states as well as the District of Columbia had applied for that early group.

The changes won approval by the party's rules and bylaws committee, whose recommendations the DNC often accepts.

"Nevada won because they did a better job of politicking," said Don Fowler, a member of the rules committee and former national chairman of the DNC. Nevada Democrats also argued that they have experience running caucuses.

Much of the politics was handled by Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, the senior senator from Nevada and part of the Democrats' congressional leadership team.

Democratic strategists say that aides for several potential candidates are already making contacts with key political figures in Nevada - especially with union representatives for the hotel and restaurant workers.

Democrats are eager to bring more diversity to their early contests in the race for the White House in two years. Blacks and Hispanics have complained that the all-important leadoff contests in Iowa and New Hampshire, each at least 95 percent white, undercut their influence in picking a nominee.

But some White House hopefuls, the governor of New Hampshire and former President Clinton contend the party, for no good reason, is tinkering with a system that has worked for decades.

Potential 2008 presidential contender Sen. Evan Bayh, D-Ind., had said he disagreed with advocates of the new plan, but on Sunday he said he would go along with whatever the DNC decides when it votes on August 19, the Des Moines Register reported.

"I've expressed my own preference, but whatever ends up being decided is what we'll need to do," Bayh said. "If I do decide to run, I think you have to compete according to the rules as they are written and in the places and the order they come."

Under pressure from influential constituencies demanding change, Democrats decided last month to add a caucus after Iowa and before New Hampshire, and a primary soon after New Hampshire's.

New Hampshire's secretary of state will have to determine whether the Democrats' actions comply with a New Hampshire law requiring that the Granite State's primary be scheduled a week or more before any "similar election." He could decide to move the New Hampshire primary earlier to protect its status.

Blacks and Hispanics are important constituencies for the Democrats. Blacks made up 21 percent of the vote for Democrat John Kerry in 2004 and chose him over President Bush by a 9-to-1 margin, according to exit polls.

Hispanics made up 9 percent of the Democrats' support and leaned toward Kerry. Republicans won the support of roughly four in 10 Hispanic voters in 2004, their best showing yet.