Presidential Election

Why Iowa Democrats aren't caucusing for a presidential candidate

The Democratic National Committee stripped Iowa of its first-in-the-nation voting status this election cycle, giving that honor to South Carolina.

Why Iowa Democrats aren't caucusing for a presidential candidate
Charlie Neibergall/AP
SMS

Iowa Democrats will not be the first to select a nominee for president this election season. Instead of caucusing for a presidential nominee on Jan. 15, Democrats will submit their choice through a vote-by-mail system. 

The Democratic National Committee stripped Iowa of its first-in-the-nation voting status this election cycle, giving that honor to South Carolina. 

"The Democrats in Iowa are furious that the party abandoned Iowa and capitulated to the Democratic National Committee," said Steffen Schmidt, a professor at Iowa State University. 

The DNC argues that South Carolina has a more diverse electorate and empowers minorities, who are a critical base for the party. 

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Ross Wilburn, the former chair of the Iowa Democratic Party, said his state is more diverse than outsiders understand. He points to Iowa selecting Barack Obama over Hillary Clinton in 2008. 

"Without Iowa, there was no uplifting of President Barack Obama," he said. "That woke the country up to the possibility that yes we can elect an African American to be president of the United States."

Iowa was less kind to Joe Biden in 2020: He finished fourth, behind Pete Buttigieg, Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren. He also fell short in New Hampshire.

South Carolina revived his campaign after a critical endorsement from Congressman Jim Clyburn. He helped turn out Black voters, which changed the tide of the primary season, allowing Biden to secure the nomination and ultimately the presidency.