Democrats' primary shakeup runs into resistance from New Hampshire, Georgia

Democrats are hitting snags as they attempt to make a substantial shakeup to their presidential nominating process -- facing criticism from some members of their own party and resistance from state-level Republican officials who are key to setting new dates in the desired early states.

Earlier this month, members of the Rules and Bylaws Committee (RBC) of the party's national committee followed recommendations from the White House to reorder which states have early presidential primaries and caucuses before Super Tuesday -- the busiest primary day of the cycle. That resulted in the proposed nixing of Iowa, the addition of Georgia and Michigan and shifting South Carolina from first in the South to first in the nation.

But the Democratic National Committee's (DNC) decision, which they have said is an effort to focus more on their core voters and be more representative of the electorate, is not sacrosanct.

The changes rely on officials in each state, like Georgia and New Hampshire -- who have since indicated their resistance -- to be implemented in the new election calendar.

The date-wrangling is bureaucratic but important, experts have told ABC News, since the early states in each presidential cycle influence who decides to run and when voters get heard.

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"The state that goes first really shapes the start of the primary: It dictates how candidates spend their resources in the off-year, it can create momentum, it can set the tone," Nevada Democratic strategist Rebecca Lambe has said.

And while national Democrats would like to shake-up their calendar, that reality may actually be closer to fantasy, one member of the RBC told ABC News.

"This calendar won't stand. What we proposed won't stand. New Hampshire has already indicated that this calendar is unacceptable to them and that they cannot comply with the requirements that were set out in the waiver. And they won't comply with those requirements, so that's already off the rails," said Scott Brennan, who represents Iowa on the RBC.

PHOTO: Democratic National Committee chair Jaime Harrison cries listening to committee member Donna Brazile talk about the importance of proposed changes to the primary system during a DNC Rules and Bylaws Committee meeting on Dec. 2, 2022, in Washington. (Nathan Howard/AP)
PHOTO: Democratic National Committee chair Jaime Harrison cries listening to committee member Donna Brazile talk about the importance of proposed changes to the primary system during a DNC Rules and Bylaws Committee meeting on Dec. 2, 2022, in Washington. (Nathan Howard/AP)

In New Hampshire, Democrats would need Republican Gov. Chris Sununu and the GOP state legislature to change a law requiring that the state be the first primary on the calendar. But Sununu has lambasted the Joe Biden-backed plan as a "terrible disservice," saying the president "blew it."

Some members of the left wing of Biden's own party agree. Faiz Shakir, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders' 2020 campaign manager, wrote in a New York Times op-ed that Biden's proposal to boost South Carolina to the front of the line was "comical, if it weren't tragic."

Carol Fowler, another RBC committee member who represents South Carolina, dismissed Shakir's analysis as the usual partisanship.

"You know, this is politics. And if you have struggled to receive any African American votes, you might be reluctant to see African American voters given such a prominent place," said Fowler. "Sen. Sanders did not do well in South Carolina [in the 2020 primary] with African American voters, and so probably it would suit them to not try to try to appeal to those voters because they just were unable to appeal to them before."

In September, Sanders told CBS News that he had yet to make a decision on another bid at the presidency.

After Shakir's op-ed was published, Jamie Harrison, the DNC chair, tweeted that he has "zero tolerance – ZERO for any disrespect or dismissal of Black voters."

Even still, congressional Democrats have not reacted in kind to the DNC's move to strip New Hampshire of the first presidential primary -- or to President Biden's endorsement of the proposal.

PHOTO: Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger speaks to the media about early voting progress on Oct. 25, 2022 in Atlanta. (Elijah Nouvelage/Getty Images)
PHOTO: Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger speaks to the media about early voting progress on Oct. 25, 2022 in Atlanta. (Elijah Nouvelage/Getty Images)

New Hampshire Democrats like Sens. Maggie Hassan and Jeanne Shaheen and Rep. Chris Pappas made their disappointment clear earlier this week by declining to attend the annual congressional dinner that is hosted by the White House.

Shaheen's spokesperson, Sarah Weinstein, said the primary changes could be a costly decision.

"As Senator Shaheen has said, the President's proposal unnecessarily makes Democrats in New Hampshire, from the top to the bottom of the ticket, vulnerable in 2024," Weinstein said in a statement to ABC News.

"This did not have to be a mutually exclusive decision – he could have advanced a more diverse state to an earlier date, while maintaining New Hampshire as the first primary election. Instead, New Hampshire Republicans were gifted the political fodder they've been waiting for to target Democrats and dissuade Independents from backing Democrats in pivotal local, state and federal elections," Weinstein said.

Hassan vowed to push back against the changes and said New Hampshire will go forth in holding the nation's first primary.

"I strongly oppose the President's deeply misguided proposal, but make no mistake, New Hampshire's law is clear and our primary will continue to be First in the Nation. ... Because of our state's small size, candidates from all walks of life - not just the ones with the largest war chests - are able to compete and engage in the unique retail politics that are a hallmark of our state," Hassan said in a statement.

"I look forward to welcoming Democratic and Republican candidates to New Hampshire - just like we always have," Hassan said.

PHOTO: New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu speaks at the Republican Jewish Coalition annual leadership meeting on Nov. 19, 2022 in Las Vegas. (Scott Olson/Getty Images)
PHOTO: New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu speaks at the Republican Jewish Coalition annual leadership meeting on Nov. 19, 2022 in Las Vegas. (Scott Olson/Getty Images)

The DNC faces major challenges in Georgia, too. There the primary election date is set by Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, a Republican who has seen his profile rise after defying former President Donald Trump's push to overturn the 2020 results. GOP officials have already set their own nominating calendar and could penalize Georgia if its primary is held before their set date. Raffensperger's deputy, Jordan Fuchs, said in a statement that their office doesn't plan to make any changes that would cause penalization.

"Our legal team has continuously stated that both party primaries are going to be on the same day and we will not cost anyone any delegates," Fuchs said in a statement to ABC News.

In an interview with The Washington Post, Fuchs said the chances that Georgia's primary will be moved earlier without support from both parties was "very slim."

Brennan, of Iowa, sees a similar fate. He told ABC News that "it doesn't appear that Georgia is going to have a lot of success moving into the pre window."

Georgia elections official Gabriel Sterling offered a more subtle hint on Twitter, writing recently that ballots in his state will likely be cast 16 months from now -- in March -- rather than Democrats' Feb. 13, 2024, proposal.

The DNC has given each proposed early state (South Carolina, Nevada, New Hampshire, Georgia and Michigan) until early January to prove the necessary changes are being made, with the threat of voiding early window waivers if they do not comply.

White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre on Monday defended the president's endorsement of the primary changes and said Biden was simply honoring his commitment to diversity.

Democrats' primary shakeup runs into resistance from New Hampshire, Georgia originally appeared on abcnews.go.com