Minnesota Dems ding Michigan as race for early-state presidential primary heats up

Gene J. Puskar/AP Photo

The battle to crash the early-state lineup in Democrats’ next presidential primary isn't staying Minnesota nice.

Minnesota's Democratic-Farmer Labor-Party Chair Ken Martin sent a two-page memo to Democratic National Committee members Wednesday evening urging them to not select Michigan as the early primary state from the Midwest in 2024 and beyond. Michigan and Minnesota are seen as the leading contenders to nab the influential perch, after Iowa's first-in-the-nation status came under harsh scrutiny for its handling of the 2020 caucuses, spurring Democrats to move to change the order of future primaries and elevate a new Midwestern state.

Martin argued in his memo, which was obtained by POLITICO, that Minnesota "is more diverse and has a stronger party infrastructure than Iowa, but unlike Michigan, it is not large enough that it would overshadow the other early primary states or make it harder and more expensive for candidates to compete in during this critical window."

In particular, Martin noted the number of delegates Michigan has, which correlates to the state's population and Democratic vote share. The Minnesota party chair called it "too large for inclusion in the early state process," noting that Michigan's 139 delegates to the 2024 convention would be nearly as many delegates as the combined total from all three other current early states: New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina.

"With so many delegates being awarded to Michigan, it is easy to see future candidates skipping the rest of the early states altogether — to focus on a prize that delivers nearly as many delegates as all other early states combined," Martin wrote. "This result would negate the expressed purpose [sic] of our early state strategy."

Martin's memo comes at a moment of intense private and public lobbying on behalf of a handful of states vying to stay in the early nominating window — or to leapfrog to the front of the line. The DNC reopened the nomination process earlier this year, inviting states to apply (or reapply) for a spot in the lineup, with a focus on battleground states that feature racial, geographic and economic diversity.

The party's Rules and Bylaws Committee, charged with recommending a new slate of states, will meet on Friday and Saturday.

Democrats' midterm victories in Michigan and Minnesota in November cleared the path for them to change primary dates there. In Michigan, Democrats flipped the state legislature to Democratic control and Gov. Gretchen Whitmer won reelection, while in Minnesota, Democrats flipped the state Senate, putting them back in trifecta control of the state.

Michigan has leaned into its racial and economic diversity — as well as its status as a key swing state — for its case to be added to the early window. But Martin's memo sought to counter Michigan's position by noting that "while Michigan has a larger number of Black voters than Minnesota, our state leads Michigan and Iowa in every other racial and ethnic category."

On competitiveness, Martin noted that though "many people assume that Michigan is a more competitive state than Minnesota," over the last six presidential cycles, "Minnesota has been *more* competitive than Michigan in presidential contests," with an average margin of 5.42 percentage points to Michigan's 6.17 percentage points.