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Iowa Democrats are in Washington asking the DNC to keep its caucuses in the early presidential nominating window

John Pemble
IPR News

Members of the Iowa Democratic Party are in Washington D.C. this week. On Thursday, they’ll make a case to the Democratic National Committee for the Iowa caucuses to remain in the early presidential nominating calendar.

All Things Considered host Catherine Wheeler talked to IPR’s lead political reporter Clay Masters about what to expect who is in Washington to cover the meetings.

Why are Iowa Democrats in Washington D.C. asking for the Iowa caucuses to remain in the early window?

Earlier this year, members of the DNC’s Rules and Bylaws committee within the DNC said they wanted to change up the early presidential nominating calendar. Right now, those early carve-out states are Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina. Members on the committee said they want to favor states that are more diverse—Iowa is an overwhelmingly white state—and states that are more competitive in the general election, while Iowa hasn’t voted for a Democratic presidential candidate in almost 10 years. Members on the committee also said they wanted to favor primary elections and not caucuses. Caucuses are not primary elections and for years have been slammed for not being inclusive.

What states are in the running for the early window, and who is making the case for Iowa?

The list includes the other current early states of New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina. In the Midwest, there’s Michigan, Minnesota and Illinois presenting. Maryland, New Jersey, Connecticut and Delaware will make a case. So will Colorado, Georgia, Texas, Oklahoma and Washington State, as well as Puerto Rico. The Iowa delegation includes Iowa Democratic state party Chair Ross Wilburn and minority leader for the Iowa House Democrats Jennifer Konfrst of Windsor Heights.

How will Iowa make the case?

The biggest change are fundamental alterations to the caucuses themselves. Under the proposal, a caucus-goer would request a presidential preference card. An Iowan would receive the card in the mail and they would then have 14 to 28 days to either mail it back or return it in-person.

“This also means that we are proposing the elimination of realignment so that each caucus-goer would express a preference for only one candidate,” Iowa Democratic Party Chair Ross Wilburn said at the time the proposal they submitted to the DNC was unveiled in early June. “At the caucus, we would then report the results publicly and caucuses themselves would focus primarily on conducting party business”

Wilburn said this proposed plan gives the party an opportunity to reach more Iowans than ever before.

What are the other aspects Iowa Democrats will stress aside from caucus changes?

In the proposal, they recognize Iowa falls short as a truly representative state with respect to overall racial and ethnic diversity. The proposal highlights the growing diverse communities in Iowa and the complex political issues in urban and rural areas. The proposal also indicates that the way the four current early states is meant be seen as a whole.

On the competition front, the proposal talks about three of the state’s four congressional districts being competitive and make the argument that Iowa is still purple. Republicans are stillkeeping the current calendar, which means Iowa would still go first with its caucuses. The proposal the Iowa Democratic Party submitted says booting Iowa from the early window will make it look like national Democrats are “abandoning” Iowa and it would reinforce a narrative that Democrats do not have the interests of rural voters at heart. The Iowa Democrats will also highlight the cheaper media markets in Iowa which makes it easier for lesser-known candidates to run for president and the spread-out nature of Iowa’s population which makes it easier for candidates to cover a lot of ground and connect with urban, rural and suburban voters.

When will we learn if Iowa will stay in the early window for the Democrats?

These are just the presentations this week and there should be a calendar worked out in the DNC Rules and Bylaws Committee’s July or August meetings.

Clay Masters is the senior politics reporter for MPR News.
Catherine Wheeler was Iowa Public Radio's All Things Considered host and a reporter from 2021 to 2023.