OPINION: This article may contain commentary which reflects the author's opinion.
President Joe Biden has at least two challengers for the 2024 Democratic presidential nomination, but he’s not likely going to have to face off against them on a debate stage — and that’s by design, according to a leading party figure.
In an interview Friday, Rep. James Clyburn of South Carolina admitted that the Democratic National Committee changed its primary calendar in a way that helps and boosts Biden.
“I don’t think you’re stacking the deck. I think you’re avoiding embarrassment,” Clyburn told CNN’s Chris Wallace, Politico reported. “And that is what he is attempting to avoid here. And I would expect anybody to do the same.”
In February, the DNC changed the primary calendar, removing the Iowa caucuses from their traditional first-in-the-nation spot, as well as moving the New Hampshire presidential primary from its position as the first. Now, Nevada and New Hampshire will hold their votes on February 6.
Via Politico Playbook PM:
“Rep. Jim Clyburn openly acknowledged that Democrats moved South Carolina first in the presidential primary order because Biden has done/would do better in primaries there than in Iowa or New Hampshire.” pic.twitter.com/KGoZYwCWL1
— Shelby Talcott (@ShelbyTalcott) May 19, 2023
Before gaining Clyburn’s endorsement and winning the South Carolina primary with 48.6 percent of the vote, Joe Biden’s performance in the 2020 presidential primaries was lackluster in Iowa and New Hampshire, to say the least.
While Iowa and New Hampshire have state laws mandating that they hold the first presidential nomination of their kind, that could result in the DNC revoking their delegates at the Democratic National Convention.
In addition, the DNC does not have any primary debates scheduled, which drew a load of criticism from Biden’s two challengers, Marianne Williamson and Robert F. Kennedy Jr.
“The DNC ‘plans no primary debates.’ As though there simply ARE no other candidates … no other ideas we should discuss about ways to win in 2024 or other ideas we should discuss about ways to repair the country. Too many people are too smart to accept this,” Williamson said last month following the DNC’s decision, according to Fox News.
Nina Turner, a former Ohio state senator and co-chair of Bernie Sanders’ 2020 presidential campaign, added the decision was “undemocratic” and that it “robs voters of choice.”
“No one who feels confident in their record and/or ideas would hesitate to stand on them. The DNC should hold debates. This is supposed to be a democratic process,” she added on Twitter.
“It’s simple — I believe in democracy, therefore I believe in debates. The DNC, RNC, and every third party should hold that same belief in a democracy. This isn’t a radical idea,” Turner said in another tweet.
During the 2020 election cycle, the Republican National Committee also did not organize or support any primary debates involving then-President Trump and his challengers.
Various candidates, such as former GOP congressman Joe Walsh and former Massachusetts Gov. Bill Weld, entered the race for the nomination, but none of them were perceived as significant contenders who could pose a real threat to Trump.
However, several surveys have found that majorities of Democratic voters do not want Biden to run again, so it’s likely that the DNC is aware of those results and, as such, has circled the wagons around the current commander-in-chief.
RFK Jr., meanwhile, called the party’s decisions “unfortunate.”
“The DNC, at this point, has taken the official position that there will be no debate, and I think that’s unfortunate,” he told Breitbart’s Joel Pollak.
Furthermore, he voiced his disapproval of the DNC’s choice to modify the beginning of its presidential nomination calendar for the upcoming 2024 election cycle by bumping Iowa and New Hampshire from their top slots.
While Williamson has not polled well, RFK Jr. has gotten as much as 19 percent support in some surveys, indicating that he is definitely within the range of unseating Biden should the party level the playing field.
Biden’s opponents “are most successful in peeling away support among women and Gen Xers, keeping Biden in the mid-fifties among both groups,” Fox News noted in a survey late last month.