Democrats on Saturday recommended moving up Nevada’s 2008 presidential
caucus to the week between the traditional campaign kickoff contests in
Iowa and New Hampshire in a bid for more racial and geographic
diversity in the nominating process.

A Democratic National Committee panel also sought to
move South Carolina’s primary to the week after New Hampshire in
changes that could diminish New Hampshire’s kingmaker status and
shatter decades of political tradition.

The moves follow complaints that the mostly white and rural states
of Iowa and New Hampshire did not represent the country’s diversity and
that other states with more racially and economically diverse
populations should play a bigger role.

Nevada’s large Hispanic and union populations and South Carolina’s
large black population will help the party’s presidential candidate
develop a broader message that appeals to the entire country,
supporters of the changes said.

The full DNC must approve the changes at its meeting in Chicago next month.

Supporters of the role played by the two small states say their
tradition of face-to-face and grass-roots campaigning helps candidates
hone their skills and message.

Iowa and New Hampshire have long enjoyed great influence in the
presidential nominating race. Iowa has held the campaign’s first
caucuses since 1972, and New Hampshire traditionally holds the first
primary shortly afterward.

The panel proposed to schedule Iowa’s kickoff caucus for January 14,
2008, with Nevada later in the week and New Hampshire’s primary on
January 22. The South Carolina primary would be no earlier than January
29 and the rest of the states would be eligible to hold their contests
beginning on February 5, 2008.

New Hampshire officials opposed the move and said they would look
into whether it meets a state law requiring the state’s primary be held
a week before any similar contest.

New Hampshire Democratic Party Chairwoman Kathy Sullivan said the
decision was short-sighted and would add to the problem of
front-loading the nominating calendar.

“In addition to ensuring that the Democratic Party will have a
nominee by February 5 after only a handful of states have voted, the
committee trampled on the grass roots tradition of the New Hampshire
primary,” she said.

“Instead of going door-to-door and meeting the voters face to face,
the candidates will spend millions of dollars on television
advertising,” she said.

© Reuters 2006