Democrats assigned to change the 2008 presidential nominating calendar voted yesterday to add two to four more states to the early stages of the nominating process while reaffirming Iowa and New Hampshire as among the states that will help kick off the primary-caucus season.
The compromise recommended by the party's 2008 calendar commission aims to increase racial and geographic diversity in the opening stages of the presidential nomination battle, while preserving for another campaign cycle the right of Iowa and New Hampshire to stage early contests.
The commission, which voted in public after a private lunch that reportedly grew testy at times, left a number of important issues to be resolved before its report is submitted to the Democratic National Committee at the end of the year. Among the most difficult are the number of states that will be added to the first weeks of the 2008 calendar and whether the party maintains Iowa's status with the first caucus and New Hampshire's with the first primary election.
The commission, chaired by Rep. David E. Price (D-N.C.) and former labor secretary Alexis M. Herman, was formed to address criticism within the party about the prominence of Iowa and New Hampshire and complaints that the two are racially unrepresentative. Adding smaller Western or Southern states to early weeks of the campaign season could increase the influence of African Americans and Latinos.
But commission members cited the value of the kind of face-to-face campaigning and citizen participation in Iowa and New Hampshire as worth preserving, and some warned that Republicans would exploit any perceived slap at the two important swing states in the 2008 general election.
"There is an emerging consensus that what we have had historically in Iowa and New Hampshire is important to the party," Herman said. But she said the group has yet to affirm their right to be first.
Commission members also addressed concerns that nominees are selected too quickly by recommending that the DNC explore incentives to encourage more states to hold their contests later in the year.
Sen. Carl M. Levin (D-Mich.), the leading critic of Iowa and New Hampshire, is pushing for Michigan to have an early slot in 2008.