Presidential Primary Odds: Which State Goes First For Dems?

Written By Evan Scrimshaw on December 13, 2022 - Last Updated on December 21, 2022
2024 presidential primary

With the prospects of a shakeup to the 2024 Presidential primary calendar looming large –  at least on the Democratic side – there’s a lot of discussions as to which state will have the honor of being first moving forward. On the Democratic side, Joe Biden has proposed a new calendar that would see South Carolina jump from fourth to first, while New Hampshire tries to fight to remain the first in the nation primary.

Which state will hold the first Democratic primary for the 2024 nominee?

All other states not listed have odds of $0.01, the equivalent of 99-to-1.

StatePredictIt PriceOdds Equivalent
South Carolina$0.73-270
New Hampshire$0.32+213

Current Calendar

Iowa has gone first in the nominating process since 1972, while New Hampshire has held the first primary in the process since 1920.

Usually soon after, there’s two back-to-back Saturday contests –  Democrats have traditionally gone Nevada then South Carolina, whereas the GOP do South Carolina then Nevada.

That calendar allows Iowa to go first, and because they’re a caucus, they allowed New Hampshire to go second while claiming a “First In The Nation Primary”, because they were the first actual primary. After that, Democrats would leave the land of overwhelmingly white states and go to Nevada and South Carolina, where a meaningful number of non-white voters could opine.

That dynamic was important – Joe Biden and Hillary Clinton both had worse than expected showings in the first two states and a mediocre one in Nevada, before heading to the overwhelmingly Black electorate of South Carolina and roaring back to reality. Both contests had Black voters back the establishment candidate, and the momentum led to them winning comfortably afterwards.

Now Biden wants to upend the calendar, removing Iowa from the first four entirely and adding Michigan and Georgia. There’s just one problem – he doesn’t actually have the powers to do any of that.

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Primary System A Disaster

There is no national Presidential primary, in any meaningful sense.

All 50 states do their own thing – some do their Congressional primaries at the same time, do an early Presidential primary and a late Congressional, some do anti-democratic caucuses where only the people with enough time to spend their entire night in a high school gym can vote – and they do it all in an uncoordinated way.

Some states allow for both parties to split their primary dates – including when Kentucky moved their GOP primary solely to allow Rand Paul to be a candidate without forcing him to give up his spot on his Senate ballot – and others are vehemently against it.

With all of this, the best a party can do is sanction a state that goes early, as Michigan and Florida had for going early in 2008. The hope is that the risk of sanctions – and therefore losing all ability to influence the nominee – will keep states in line. The problem is, all you need is someone to be a pain to stop it.

Democrats are already running into this issue with Georgia, which doesn’t want a split primary and doesn’t want to lose their GOP primary delegates by accommodating Democrats who want a very early primary. Those obstacles won’t affect who goes first, but it does show the issues here.

The big problem, and the reason this price is fairly absurd, is New Hampshire.

New Hampshire

New Hampshire has a law on the books saying that they can move their primary date to a week before anyone who schedules before them. This would lead to an extremely hilarious game of chicken with South Carolina’s Democratic Party if South Carolina really wants to go first. The problem is, though, everyone is assuming Joe Biden’s wishes are actually meaningful. In this case, they’re not.

New Hampshire wants to go first. There’s nothing that Joe Biden can give New Hampshire to let South Carolina go first, and because of the insane way that the U.S. has decided to allow federal campaigns to be managed by the will of states, there’s just no leverage here.

The most likely way this plays out is simple – South Carolina sets a 2024 Presidential primary date that is before New Hampshire, New Hampshire moves their primary to be earlier than South Carolina, and then there’s a standoff as the party seeks to avoid the primary literally bleeding into 2023.

The thing is, the reason Democrats want the new calendar is simple – the establishment of the Democratic Party wants Kamala Harris to win the first non-Joe Biden nomination, be it 2024 or (much more likely) 2028, and starting with two Black states and one where Black voters will make up a decent chunk of the Democratic electorate is a good way to get that started.

This map is a Kamala-mander, essentially, because Harris will win South Carolina and Georgia in a Democratic primary, and Michigan will at least keep her in the game. New Hampshire will be a disaster for her, but limiting her to 1 disaster in the first 5 will hurt any challenger’s momentum.

The thing is, though, is that this is a conversation for 2028, and not the 2024 Presidential primary. Biden is going to cruise to the nomination with a token leftist opponent who is doing it to raise some money and raise their profile. The idea that the calendar will particularly matter is for the birds.

Given that, the likeliest outcome is that the fight over New Hampshire will get punted to next time, mostly because it isn’t in Biden’s interest to keep a fight going in perpetuity. There is no way for Biden to unilaterally override New Hampshire, and sanctioning them seems a bridge too far.

New Hampshire is incredibly reliant on the First In The Nation Primary, especially as the state trends to the left, to remain any political relevance. Without it, it will become Maine – a state where nobody goes and nobody cares about. Losing first in the nation would be a disaster for them, so they can’t blink.

Conclusion

This price is a classic of the genre – people believing the narrative over the facts about the 2024 Presidential primary.

New Hampshire can’t give up first in the nation, and they will do everything in their powers not to. It doesn’t matter that Joe Biden doesn’t want it, because his opinion on this is worth about the exact same as mine. The DNC can do whatever it wants and put out as many press releases about the calendar reflecting the party better that it wants, but it doesn’t have the power to stop New Hampshire going first.

It just doesn’t.

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