Democrats closer to shuffling primaries

Published July 23, 2006

WASHINGTON - National Democrats recommended Saturday wedging 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 say they 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.

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

Democrats say they are eager to bring more diversity to their early contests in the race for the White House in two years. Blacks and Hispanics have expressed anger that the 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 Bill Clinton say the party should not be tinkering with a system that has worked for decades.

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 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, 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.

Ten states plus the District of Columbia had applied for the openings: Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Hawaii, Michigan, Mississippi, Nevada, South Carolina and West Virginia.