POLITICO Playbook: Is going first a good thing for South Carolina?


With help from Eli Okun and Garrett Ross

There probably isn’t much doubt that putting South Carolina first in the order of primary states in 2024 is good for President JOE BIDEN. If he seeks re-election, the biggest primary risk he faces will be from an insurgent — likely a progressive outsider who can take off in places like Iowa and New Hampshire, both states that rejected Biden during the primaries in 2020. South Carolina has a more conservative Democratic electorate and, of course, a much more racially diverse one. It’s not as hospitable to the kind of insurgents who can gain traction in the two traditional kickoff states.

But while it’s good for Biden, is it good for South Carolina?

On the one hand, the state will receive more attention and advertising dollars. Its restaurants and hotels will experience mini-booms around primary season. Its local issues will become national ones, the same way that Iowa’s ethanol policy became sacrosanct. (Jonathan Alter suggests that reparations for slavery may be the new ethanol.) There’s a reason New Hampshire protects its first-in-the-nation primary status in state law.

But it’s not all upside. Generally, Iowa and New Hampshire’s role has been to winnow the field of candidates, not pick the nominee. That’s an important and worthy function, but over time South Carolina developed what is arguably a more significant role: it watched the early-state results and had the ability to either reject or affirm the decisions made by the overwhelmingly white — and more liberal — Democrats in the midwest and New England.

South Carolina was perhaps the decisive state in the last three contested Democratic primaries:

  • In 2008, watching BARACK OBAMA win Iowa convinced skeptical South Carolina black voters to come around on him and stifle HILLARY CLINTON’s momentum after she won New Hampshire.
  • In 2016, South Carolina played a similar role, overwhelmingly rejecting BERNIE SANDERS after his early success.
  • And in 2020, South Carolina resurrected Biden’s campaign after his poor showings in Iowa (4th), New Hampshire (5th), and (to a lesser extent) Nevada (2nd). In all three recent Democratic nomination battles, South Carolina picked the eventual winner. 

In Biden’s letter to the DNC advocating for this change, he argued that voters of color had been “pushed to the back of the early primary process,” and that it was “time to give them a louder and earlier voice in the process.”

But earlier does not necessarily mean louder. Moving to the head of the line may fundamentally change South Carolina’s role in the process. It will shift from picking presidents to winnowing large fields of contenders.

All of this assumes, of course, that the DNC is the final word on the matter. New Hampshire seems intent to go first, anyway, even if the party sanctions the state at the convention. Then it will be up to candidates and the media to decide which one they treat as the real first state.

More …

— NYT’s Blake Hounshell and Lisa Lerer:“How Democrats’ New Primary Calendar Changes the Chessboard”

— WaPo’s Dan Balz:“Biden shakes up the primary calendar and insulates himself from challengers”

— WSJ’s John McCormick and Catherine Lucey:“Iowa’s Loss of First Democratic Caucuses Would Alter Political Clout and Tradition”

SOME JEWISH ALLIES ABANDON TRUMP —WSJ’s Aaron Zitner rounds up reaction from prominent Jewish leaders who once backed DONALD TRUMP but are now condemning him after the former president’s dinner with YE (formerly known as Kanye West) and white nationalist NICK FUENTES and his refusal to apologize for it.

The most vocal former Friend of Donald in the piece is DOV HIKIND, the former New York state legislator and Jewish leader from Brooklyn. “It is over, it is finished,” Hikind told the Journal. “Right now, he’s doing so much damage. He has disqualified himself from any of us supporting him ever again.”

Hikind told the Journal he believes “that the image of any political leader will suffer for failing to sever ties with Mr. Trump.” He took particular aim at House GOP Leader KEVIN McCARTHY:

“Mr. Hikind, known for his hawkish support of Israel and aggressive advocacy for the large population of Orthodox and Hasidic Jews in his state assembly district, said it was ‘insane’ that a leader of Mr. McCarthy’s stature hadn’t broken with Mr. Trump. ‘When you start compromising with hate, you become a hater,’ he said of the House GOP leader. ‘Donald Trump is pulling down the Republican party again and again. Disengage, for God’s sake.’ A spokesman for Mr. McCarthy didn’t respond to a request for comment.”

MACRON CHANNELS PUTIN — During an interview that he recorded on his last day in Washington, French President EMMANUEL MACRON said “guarantees to Russia” were “essential” to resolving the war in Ukraine.

“We need to prepare what we are ready to do, how we protect our allies and member states, and how to give guarantees to Russia the day it returns to the negotiating table,” he said, per the NYT. “One of the essential points we must address — as President [VLADIMIR] PUTIN has always said — is the fear that NATO comes right up to its doors, and the deployment of weapons that could threaten Russia.”

The comment “was immediately picked up prominently by TASS, the Russian state news agency,” but “prompted an angry reaction in Ukraine.”

DAVID ARAKHAMIA, who led the Ukrainian negotiating team, said on Telegram that new talks with Russia could begin when Russians “leave the territory of our country; pay reparations; punish all war criminals; voluntarily give up nuclear weapons.”

BEST OF THE GRIDIRON — Outgoing Republican Arkansas Gov. ASA HUTCHINSON and Michigan state Sen. MALLORY McMORROW headlined the Gridiron Club’s winter dinner Saturday night. This is a more low-key members-only affair than the press club’s big spring event. The dress code is tuxes, not white tails. There are songs, but no skits. And it features somewhat lesser-known pols delivering the jokes.

Hutchinson played up his lack of star quality in his remarks, and delivered an endearingly earnest routine that exemplifies how he will offer the ultimate contrast to Trump if he decides to run for the Republican presidential nomination in 2024. McMorrow highlighted the Democratic gains in her state last month and the unusual nature of her national prominence.

Hutchinson’s best lines:

— On Florida Gov. RON DeSANTIS running against Trump in the primary: “Can you imagine if he gets in? It would be the first time in history that a father and son were running against each other for President of the United States.”

— On his own big political weakness: “My real problem is that I think being woke is an ailment in which you can’t sleep at night. I was really confused when Ron DeSantis in his reelection speech in Florida, you heard it, said that ‘Florida is where woke comes to die.’ I just keep thinking, ‘Do I have to go to Florida to get a good night’s rest?’ And here I am thinking I just had to take MIKE HUCKABEE’s‘Relaxium’ in order to sleep.”

— On Trump: “I fully expect Donald Trump to announce his pronouns very soon. And he is so thoughtful on these type of sensitive issues. And in between his dinner parties and his calling and working for the Constitution to be overwritten, he let us know his preferred pronouns. They are: me, my and mine.”

McMorrow’s best:

— On her Republican counterpart at the dinner: “Governor Hutchinson is tremendously respected. As a U.S. Attorney, Asa made headlines for successfully going up against a group of white supremacists. And Kevin McCarthy wants to know: What’s your secret?”

— On Hutchinson winning his confirmation vote to lead the DEA, 98-1: “That’s impressive, right? Right now, Jesus couldn’t get confirmed 98 to one, unless he promised extra loaves and fishes to JOE MANCHIN for West Virginia.”

— On her own meteoric rise: “Let’s be real. The only reason that any of you even know who I am is because I gave a speech about putting an end to performative nonsense. Somehow, that earned me an invitation to this dinner, which as far as I can tell is devoted solely to performative nonsense.”

— On how the last Gridiron dinner was “a little bit of super-spreader event”: “Fortunately, President [JOE] BIDEN wasn’t there, and for that I know all of us are grateful — except for maybe GAVIN NEWSOM. After that dinner, three cabinet secretaries came down with Covid. And MATT GAETZ got the clap. He wasn’t even at the dinner. That’s just something that happened.”

Good Sunday morning. Thanks for reading Playbook. How are you celebrating Repeal Day tomorrow? Drop us a line: Rachael Bade, Eugene Daniels, Ryan Lizza.


— Sen. JONI ERNST (R-Iowa) on Democrats shifting the presidential nominating calendar away from her home state, on “Fox News Sunday”: “I feel that Democrats have really given middle America the middle finger.”

— Rep. DAVID JOYCE (R-Ohio) on whether he would support Trump in 2024 after his call to terminate the Constitution, on ABC’s “This Week”: “He says a lot of things, but that doesn’t mean that it’s ever going to happen. So you’ve got to [separate] fact from fantasy. And fantasy is that we’re going to suspend the Constitution and go backward. We’re moving forward and we’re going to continue to move forward as a Republican majority and as a Republican conference.”

— Rep.-elect MIKE LAWLER (R-N.Y.) on Trump’s call to terminate the Constitution, on CNN’s “State of the Union”: “Well, obviously, I don’t support that. The Constitution is set for a reason: to protect the rights of every American. And so I certainly don’t endorse that language or that sentiment. I think the question for everyone is how we move forward.”

— Secretary of State ANTONY BLINKEN on what he will say to Chinese President XI JINPING at their upcoming meeting, on CNN’s “State of the Union”: “We will say what we always say and what President Biden has said to Xi Jinping, which is that human rights and basic civil liberties go to the heart of who we are as Americans. And no American government, no American president is going to be silent on that.”

— Former VP MIKE PENCE on whether DOJ has contacted him regarding its investigations into Trump, on “Fox News Sunday”: “There has been some contact. But what I will tell you is that we will make that decision on the basis of the unique responsibilities that I have under the Constitution of the United States as a former vice president. It’s one of the reasons why I made it clear in recent weeks that the Congress has no right to my testimony before the Jan. 6 committee.”

— Israeli Prime Minister-elect BENJAMIN NETANYAHU on the rise of antisemitism, on NBC’s “Meet the Press”: “I don’t overlook antisemitism. I have a clear position against it, which I voice and I expect others to voice as well, as I’ve just said on this program. … The issue of balancing interests with values, that’s really what you’re asking: Where do you draw the line? Well, in real life, in real political life, in real political leadership, leaders of democratic countries constantly make that balance.”

TOP-EDS: A roundup of the week’s must-read opinion pieces.



1. RUNOFF REPORT: “‘I’ve never been hiding’: Walker defends campaign ahead of Tuesday’s runoff,” by Brittany Gibson in Atlanta: “HERSCHEL WALKER defended his campaign strategy less than four days before the Georgia Senate runoff and denied that he has been avoiding questions from voters and mainstream news organizations, telling POLITICO in an exclusive interview that ‘I’ve been talking to as many [voters] as I can. … I’ve never been hiding.’”

Walker seems not to know who will control the House: “Walker said he hasn’t seen any lack of enthusiasm from voters. ‘They’re not [less motivated] because they know right now that the House will be even, so they don’t want to understand what is happening right now. You get the House, you get the committees. You get all the committees even, they just stall things within there. So if we keep a check on Joe Biden, we just going to keep a check on him,’ Walker said.”

(The House, of course, has already been flipped by Republicans.)

“In Georgia’s Runoff Election, Midterm Turnout and Blank Ballots Might Reveal Who Has the Edge,” by WSJ’s Danny Dougherty: “Counties that saw a steeper drop-off in turnout between November 2020 and January 2021 also saw worse turnout in this year’s midterms — though those counties where Warnock netted more votes broadly saw less of a drop-off from the general and runoff elections last cycle.”

Related reads: “Senate campaign hits fever pitch in final days of Georgia runoff,” by WaPo’s Hannah Knowles and Matthew Brown in Atlanta … “Biden and Trump help Warnock, Walker by staying out of Georgia,” by Fox News’ Paul Steinhauser

2. NEW SEASON OF SUCCESSION: “The shadow race is on to succeed Feinstein,” by Jeremy White: “Reps. RO KHANNA and KATIE PORTER are fielding entreaties to jump into the race, and Rep. ADAM SCHIFF has publicly declared he is exploring a run. Rep. BARBARA LEE is spending the holidays mulling her next move. Three hopefuls have contacted former Sen. BARBARA BOXER to seek her advice, marking the incipient stages of a fierce fight between California Democrats for a seat that has not been open for a generation.”

3. HAPPENING THIS WEEK: “Supreme Court weighs ‘most important case’ on democracy,” by AP’s Mark Sherman: “The court is set to hear arguments Wednesday in a case from North Carolina, where Republican efforts to draw congressional districts heavily in their favor were blocked by a Democratic majority on the state Supreme Court because the GOP map violated the state constitution.

“A court-drawn map produced seven seats for each party in last month’s midterm elections in highly competitive North Carolina. The question for the justices is whether the U.S. Constitution’s provision giving state legislatures the power to make the rules about the ‘times, places and manner’ of congressional elections cuts state courts out of the process.”

4. INFLATION EASES: “From chicken wings to used cars, inflation begins to ease its grip,” by WaPo’s David Lynch: “Global supply chains are finally operating normally, as more consumers spend more on in-person services like restaurant meals and less on goods like furniture and computers that come from an ocean away. The cost of sending a standard 40-foot container from China to the U.S. West Coast is $1,935 — down more than 90 percent from its September 2021 peak of $20,586, according to the online freight marketplace Freightos.”

5. BUT THE FORMULA FUROR PERSISTS: “‘In desperate need’: Moms still search frantically for baby formula months after shortage,” by USA Today’s Donovan Slack: “Administration officials say formula production now is outpacing levels before the recall, and in-stock rates are approaching what they were before, but they acknowledge more needs to be done to ensure all the formula gets where it’s needed.”

6. MEDIAWATCH: “Defamation Suit Against Fox Grows More Contentious,” by NYT’s Jeremy Peters: “LACHLAN MURDOCH, the chief executive of the Fox Corporation, is expected to be deposed on Monday as part of a $1.6 billion defamation lawsuit against Fox News for amplifying bogus claims that rigged machines from Dominion Voting Systems were responsible for Donald J. Trump’s defeat in 2020. … And his appearance before Dominion’s lawyers is a sign of how unexpectedly far and fast the lawsuit has progressed in recent weeks — and how contentious it has become.”

7. BEIJING’S LONG REACH: “China operating over 100 police stations across the world with the help of some host nations, report claims,” by CNN’s Nina dos Santos: “Beijing has set up more than 100 so-called overseas police stations across the globe to monitor, harass and in some cases repatriate Chinese citizens living in exile, using bilateral security arrangements struck with countries in Europe and Africa to gain a widespread presence internationally, a new report shared exclusively with CNN alleges. Madrid-based human rights campaigner Safeguard Defenders says it found evidence China was operating 48 additional police stations abroad since the group first revealed the existence of 54 such stations in September.”

8. CLIMATE FILES: “The Texas Group Waging a National Crusade Against Climate Action,” by NYT’s David Gelles: “The Texas Public Policy Foundation is shaping laws, running influence campaigns and taking legal action in a bid to promote fossil fuels.”

SPOTTED: LeBron Jameswalking into Cafe Milano on Saturday night.

IN MEMORIAM — “Former Rep. Jim Kolbe, 11-term member of Congress, dead at 80,” by the Arizona Republic’s Ronald Hansen: “Kolbe entered Congress after the 1984 elections, when President Ronald Reagan’s sunny optimism was winning over some Democrats, and left in 2007 as partisanship deepened, making it more difficult for Republicans to compete in southern Arizona. He departed Washington out of sync with the GOP in important ways: He was gay, supported abortion rights and a guest-worker program to help manage the growing restlessness about the nation’s immigration system.”

OUT AND ABOUT — Worldwide Speakers Group hosted former VP Mike Pence for a party celebrating the publication of his book “So Help Me God” ($35) at its Alexandria headquarters on Thursday night. SPOTTED: Bob Thomas, Dan Sims, Marc Short, Josh Kraushaar, Paul Teller, Dan Berger, Dan Burton, Samia Burton, Matt Blunt, John Bode, Johnny Taylor, Manuel Espina, Matt Haller, Eric Hoplin, Michael Jenkins, Reiko Jenkins, Tom McDevitt and Ray Briscuso. Pic

SPOTTED on Saturday night at John and April Delaney’s annual holiday buffet at their Potomac home that they started when they were married over 30 years ago: Chief Justice John Roberts, Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) and John Bessler, Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) and Abby Blunt, Sen. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, Rep. Jim Himes (D-Conn.), Terry McAuliffe, Steve and Jean Case, José Andrés, Nick Fineman and Summer Delaney, Alex Gangitano, Stuart Holliday, Alan Davidson, David and Katherine Bradley, Tammy Haddad, Susanna Quinn, Jason Grumet, Mark Ein, Raul Fernandez and Louis Dubin.

FIRST IN PLAYBOOK — Greg Smith will be chief of staff for Rep.-elect Eli Crane (R-Ariz.). He previously was VP of American Global Strategies and is a Trump White House alum.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY: Reps. Grace Napolitano (D-Calif.), Kevin Hern (R-Okla.) and Nancy Mace (R-S.C.) … The Boston Globe’s Jackie Kucinich … CNN’s Suzanne Malveaux … NPR’s Danielle Kurtzleben and Ximena BustilloAl HuntMeg BadameSarah Paulos … Amazon’s Rachael LightyPeter FreemanColin Rogero of 76 Words … Claire Lucas Kevin O’Neill of Arnold & Porter … PBS NewsHour’s Anne Davenport Sarah Baron of the Hub Project … Brian SvobodaYesenia ChavezChad Heflin of the International Air Transport Association … Mark Cowan of Cowan Strategies … Jennie Westbrook Courts of the Information Technology Industry Council … Bill MuratNate Beecher … former Rep. Francis Rooney (R-Fla.) … former Transportation Secretary Mary PetersMeghan Patenaude Bauer Matthew BevensLouisa Keeler Jon Fleischman … WaPo’s Jennifer Hurley Andrew Shult of TAG Strategies … Koch Industries’ Nick GassYana Mayayeva of Rep. Jackie Speier’s (D-Calif.) office … CNBC’s Whitney KsiazekCampbell Marshall Bob Mulholland Stephanie Spartz

Did someone forward this email to you? Sign up here.

Send Playbookers tips to [email protected] or text us at 202-556-3307. Playbook couldn’t happen without our editor Mike DeBonis, deputy editor Zack Stanton and producers Setota Hailemariam and Bethany Irvine.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *