Democrats aim to design a presidential nomination process that gives everyone a voice – and produces a winning candidate

Supporters of Democratic presidential nominee Pete Buttigieg prepare for a rally for him in a high school gym February 3, 2020 in Des Moines, Iowa. Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images
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In the last few election cycles, the quartet from Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina have held the early seats in the Democratic Party's presidential nomination process firmly in their grip.
But that could change soon.
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Like clockwork, Democrats hunker down every four years to tweak their rules for the presidential nomination, and right now they're in the process of fine-tuning the 2024 calendar. The party has routinely pinned its hopes on the nomination rules to pave the way for a November win.
As a long-time connoisseur of the presidential nomination process, I have observed that the rule battles aim to find the sweet spot that is likely to produce a candidate with broad appeal both inside and outside the party.
The party must balance the legitimacy that comes with a process that makes it easy for average Democrats to get their votes in with the safety valve that allows savvy party insiders to influence the election. All of these pieces have to go through a process long enough to ensure genuine competition, but not so long that internal party fences can't be repaired in time for the general election.
This time, the Democratic National Committee is targeting the mix of states that will begin the nomination process in hopes of something better than what is available. It has taken the unusual step of holding a competition between the contracting states to help it decide the 2024 calendar. Sixteen states and Puerto Rico just submitted their pitches to the national party to be among the first to hold competitions, with a decision expected later this summer.
It's tempting to call this all a ploy to oust the Iowa caucuses from their leadership role, a position they have held since 1972. In fact, Iowa's claim to that privileged position is in grave jeopardy, particularly in light of the fiasco of the 2020 caucus count, which I detail in my book, Inside the Bubble.
It's important to go early because it gives Democrats in those states a bigger vote in the nomination. Candidates flock to the early states, interacting with voters and sometimes tailoring their policy appeals to needs unique to a state. The early contests don't determine who wins, but they usually knock out some contestants.
Who can vote?
The two major US parties are inherently federal, their organizational structures reflecting the diversity of elective offices they compete for, from county sheriff to president. Despite this, the national party is well-positioned to call the shots at the state level, bolstered by a now decades-old Supreme Court ruling that establishes the superiority of the national party over state parties.
The National Committee has long maintained control of the calendar, and took that path when it revised nominating rules after the controversial 1968 Democratic National Convention. The package of reforms, first implemented in 1972, aimed to get presidential candidates out of the proverbial backroom and make them more open, more democratic.
Technically, in primary elections and caucuses, voters select the delegates who support their preferred presidential candidate. At the party congress, the candidate with the majority of the delegates wins the nomination.
The story goes on

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