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South Carolina officially kicks off Democrats 2024 primary season

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(The Center Square) — South Carolina officially kicks off the Democratic primary season on Saturday after the party rearranged its schedule and replaced Iowa and New Hampshire as the first-in-the-nation states to vote.

The Democratic National Committee rearranged its schedule to make the Palmetto State this year’s first official Democratic primary at President Joe Biden’s urging. Political pundits credit South Carolina voters with propelling Biden to the White House in 2020 after giving him his first primary victory of the season.

When New Hampshire voters went to the polls last month, Biden’s name wasn’t on the ballot. However, the 46th president won the Granite State primary thanks to a write-in campaign.

“The President recognizes that South Carolina voters matter,” South Carolina Democratic Party Chair Christale Spain and South Carolina Executive Director Jay Parmley said in a statement announcing a Jan. 27 First in the Nation Celebration and dinner.

“Black voters matter. And Southern voters matter,” they added. “We are grateful to him for honoring his commitment to our state and to our party by coming back to the place that started his road to the White House. For the first time ever, the backbone of the Democratic Party – Black voters – will choose who they want in the White House first.”

In November, the South Carolina Democratic Party’s Executive Council certified three candidates to participate in the primary: Biden, U.S. Rep. Dean Phillips, D-Minnesota, and author Marianne Williamson. Two candidates filed but were not certified, while another didn’t meet the constitutional requirements to hold the office, the party said in a news release.

Keith Nahigian, president of Nahigian Strategies, a Republican and a veteran campaign strategist, said Saturday’s primary “will be an enthusiasm measuring stick.”

“While he will win South Carolina, it takes place on a Saturday and will show what vulnerabilities he might have going forward in this cycle, especially with certain critical groups like young people and minorities,” Nahigian told The Center Square via email.

“The primary is over but the nomination process is not,” Nahigian added. “The Democratic party has a delegate/convention process with ‘super delegates’ that after the first vote is wide open. Chicago might be very interesting in August.”

Nahigian said that Biden’s team wanted this year’s primary calendar change, adding that in 2020, Biden “was closer to the end than the nomination until South Carolina bailed him out.” This time, Biden’s main challenger, Phillips, “does not have a stronghold in the state,” Nahigian said, adding the Biden team is “not operating from a position of strength.”

“The power of incumbency is a huge advantage when running for the White House but his team has tried to change the whole calendar and has fought to keep people off the ballot,” Nahigian said.

“That takes away time and energy when they should be trying to tell the stories of accomplishment,” Nahigian added. “I believe the third-party candidates this cycle might play a fair more impactful role than in other years rather than primary opponents.”