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Democrats Consider Changes in Primaries

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By Dan Balz
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, December 9, 2005

Democratic presidential candidates will face a revised calendar of primaries and caucuses in 2008, including new contests between the traditional opening states of Iowa and New Hampshire, based on new recommendations that will be considered by a Democratic National Committee panel tomorrow.

The commission faces a weekend deadline to approve a plan that responds to party criticisms that Iowa and New Hampshire have enjoyed their privileged positions for too long and that more demographic, geographic and economic diversity is needed to make the nominating process more representative.

A staff draft of the final report, which will be forwarded to DNC Chairman Howard Dean, began circulating yesterday. It appeared to be a compromise between proposals pushed by Southern and Western states for two to four contests between Iowa and New Hampshire and a proposal from protesting New Hampshire Democrats for additional contests immediately after the Granite State's primary.

The draft contains four principal recommendations, according to Democrats briefed on the plan, but the most significant calls for the addition of one or two caucuses during the eight-day gap between the Iowa and New Hampshire events and one or two primaries in the period after the New Hampshire primary and the date that formally opens the nominating process to other states.

That change would come with a recommendation to reaffirm the first-in-the-nation status of Iowa and New Hampshire and preserve Iowa's right to hold the first caucus and New Hampshire's right to stage the first primary.

The draft also calls on the national committee to select states for these early contests based on criteria that would guarantee greater diversity at the front of the nominating process. Finally, the draft urges the national party to consider new incentives, including bonus delegates to the national convention, to discourage states from pushing their events up to early February.

The plan drew some favorable comments but a negative reaction from New Hampshire Democratic Party Chairman Kathy Sullivan, who said it will result in too many contests too early in 2008. "It takes the worst of 2004 and exacerbates it," she said.


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