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The Democratic National Committee has delayed a decision on the presidential nominating calendar, leaving Iowa Democrats to wait three months until after the November midterm elections to find out the fate of the Iowa caucuses.
"We are delaying the decision on who can be in the pre-window until after the midterm elections," said Scott Brennan, a Des Moines lawyer who serves on the DNC's Rules and Bylaws Committee, the group tasked with setting the calendar.
The committee had been slated to make a recommendation this week at meetings in Washington, D.C., of a slate of up to five states for the early nominating window.
Rules committee co-chairs Jim Roosevelt Jr. and Minyon Moore wrote in a memo to members that “after speaking with many of you over the past several weeks about the last few steps of this process, it has become clear that the best way to move forward with the final stage of this process is to postpone the committee’s decision on the pre-window rule until after the midterm elections.”
Brennan said the co-chairs stated they felt the committee “had made very good progress” interviewing, discussing and debating a new slate of states that are vying to get into the early presidential nominating window, “but that there’s a lot going on and that we didn’t want the pre-window decisions to impact the midterms.”
“The focus needs to be on the midterms,” Brennan said. “So I will take them at their word that that is why they did it.”
Iowa is among 16 states and Puerto Rico vying to be included in Democrats’ early presidential nominating window ahead of Super Tuesday in early March 2024.
The DNC rules committee voted in April to reopen the presidential nominating window, forcing all interested states — including the current early-nominating states of Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina — to apply for a spot.
The move came after the current lineup of early-nominating states — led by the largely rural and predominantly white states of Iowa and New Hampshire — came under increasing fire for a lack of diversity that many Democrats say doesn’t represent the party’s true strength. And it follows a chaotic 2020 caucus night for Iowa Democrats when a smartphone app — meant to make reporting results easier — failed. As a result, the official Democratic caucus results were not reported for several weeks.
The DNC is considering factors like diversity, electoral competitiveness and logistical feasibility in making its decision.
That means scrutinizing states’ racial and ethnic makeup, union membership rates and how big they are in terms of population and geography, can affect possibilities for direct voter engagement and the costs of travel and advertising.
Iowa Democrats argued before the DNC rules committee last month that the state offers a path to victory for long-shot candidates and opportunities for meaningful conversations with rural Americans and Iowans from every walk of life as they made their pitch to maintain Iowa’s first-in-the-nation caucuses.
Iowa Democratic Party officials touted the state’s pockets of diversity and argued Iowa serves as an inexpensive and accessible playing field for lesser-known candidates to establish themselves.
"From the beginning, I was assured by (DNC) Chair Jaime Harrison that there would be a fair process in place,“ Iowa Democratic Party Chairman Ross Wilburn said in a statement Sunday. ”I’m committed to fighting for Iowa to maintain its position on the nomination calendar and we will continue to provide information as requested by the DNC Rules & Bylaws Committee.
“Small rural states like Iowa must have a voice in our Democratic Presidential nominating process. We cannot let corporate media and special interest groups replace our strong Democratic grassroots organizations which have been the bedrock of our national general election victories."
The rules committee will still meet in Friday and Saturday in Washington, but now does not plan to make a decision until after Nov. 8 — meaning that the primary calendar decision won’t affect key congressional races.
State Democratic Party officials from Iowa and New Hampshire had argued before the rules committee that losing their positions going first and second could hurt Democrats in the states’ top races, especially since the Republican Party has already said Iowa will continue to lead off its 2024 primaries.
“Following the midterm elections, we will reconvene to update our evaluation of the applicant pool and work towards a final decision to present to the full DNC for a vote, which DNC leadership has assured us they will make happen as soon after the midterm elections as is possible,” Roosevelt and Moore wrote, adding that “we will continue to work with applicants in the coming weeks to hammer out final details.”
Brennan said he does not believe the DNC’s decisions to delay a vote has “a great impact” on Iowa Democrats’ chances of holding onto their coveted spot at the front of the nominating calendar.
“It doesn’t change our argument at all,” he said. “We’ve made our pitch and I don’t know that the midterms have a huge impact on our success or failure being back in the pre-window.”
And despite appearances and doubts among some Iowa Democrats, Brennan said it was not a foregone conclusion that Iowa will lose its place at the front of the line, or could still hold onto a spot elsewhere in the early window.
“Everything is on the table at this point,” Brennan said. “Anybody who thinks they know what the answer is, they’d be lying to you. So, you know, I remain hopeful that we’re first and at a minimum that we’re in the pre-window.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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