VIENNA, Virginia (CNN) – The presidential primary calendar was finalized Saturday, after months of uncertainty and just 33 days before the first votes are cast in Iowa.
The Democratic National Committee approved requests by Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina to reschedule their nominating contests to earlier dates in January, while denying Michigan the right to hold its primary January 15. Michigan Democratic leaders vowed to move forward with the primary, even though none of its delegates will count towards the nominating convention and several Democratic contenders will not appear on the state ballot.
The votes by the DNC Rules and Bylaws Committee were the final dominos to drop in what has been a contentious battle pitting state political parties against national party leaders over control of the presidential nominating calendar. Traditionally, Iowa and New Hampshire have held the first caucuses and primary in the race for the White House. But Democrats and Republicans in others states tried to deemphasize the influence of Iowa and New Hampshire in the 2008 election at the same time elevating their own states into more prominent positions. State Republicans were successful, while efforts by their Democratic counterparts failed.
The DNC invoked a death penalty on any renegade Democratic state party that violated its rules by holding a nominating contest before February 5. The Republican National Committee, too, imposed sanctions on GOP state parties that held contests before February 5, but the penalties amounted to the loss of only half of the state’s delegates.
Debbie Dingell, a Michigan DNC member, described the decision to strip her state of all of its delegates as “a win for the Republicans” because media attention will be focused on the GOP when the state holds its primary on January 15. Still, Dingell said that state Democratic leaders were committed to participating in the primary even if it didn’t count.
“This is about principle,” Dingell said. “It is the only way we are going to get there.”
And by get there, Dingell means overhaul the calendar entirely, a process that has already quietly begun.
Michigan is not alone in facing the DNC’s death penalty. Earlier this year, the DNC stripped Florida of its delegates for scheduling its primary on January 29.
“As expected, the (DNC) Rules and Bylaws Committee took action to protect the intent of the calendar as adopted by the DNC over a year ago,” said DNC spokeswoman Karen Finney.
Nevada joins Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina as the only states sanctioned by the DNC to hold a nominating contest in January. Meanwhile, Republicans have eight primaries or caucuses scheduled before February 5.
The road to the White House will begin in Iowa on January 3. But it will quickly turn in different directions for the Democratic and Republican presidential hopefuls, and their paths will only cross twice in January - New Hampshire and Nevada - when those states hold nominating contests on the same day.
On February 5, more than 20 states will hold presidential nominating contests on what being described as "Super Tuesday."
The presidential nominating calendar:
January 3 – Iowa Caucuses (Republican & Democrat)
January 5 – Wyoming Caucuses (Republican)
January 8 – New Hampshire Primary (Republican & Democrat)
January 15 – Michigan Primary (Republican)
January 19 – South Carolina Republican Primary
January 19 – Nevada Caucuses (Republican & Democrat)
January 26 – South Carolina Democratic Primary
January 29 – Florida Primary (Republican)
February 1 – Maine Caucuses (Republican)
February 5 – More than 20 states hold nominating contests on what is being called “Super Tuesday.”
– CNN Political Editor Mark Preston