Inside Minnesota's bid to host an early 2024 presidential primary

Think for a minute about next year's Minnesota State Fair if Minnesota snags an early date in the 2024 presidential primary calendar: candidates would crisscross the fairgrounds to reach tens of thousands of voters.

But it's not a reality yet. The Democratic National Committee has delayed a final decision on its primary calendar until after the November election, not wanting to upset the states whose bids they don't choose.

In Minnesota, the delay gives DFL Chairman Ken Martin more time to convince his GOP counterpart, David Hann, to make the switch. Minnesota law allows the state to change its primary date if both party chairs agree, but the Republican National Committee's 2024 calendar is already set.

"There’s really only one concern they (the DNC) have with Minnesota, and that’s can you get David Hann on board with this primary?" Martin said in a recent interview.

Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada, and South Carolina have held the four early dates for years. Iowa has gone first since 1972, but Democrats reopened the process after the state mishandled the 2020 Democratic caucuses.

Seventeen states applied, and Michigan and Minnesota are widely seen as the frontrunners for a single Midwest slot. In Michigan, Democrats have to convince the Republican state legislature to change the primary date. The process is simpler in Minnesota, requiring only the party chairs to agree.

Hann hasn't signed on because he has a powerful incentive not to: Minnesota Republicans will lose 30 of their 39 delegates to the 2024 convention if they change the date, he said.

Both parties have carrots and sticks to keep states from leapfrogging each other in the calendar. Among them is stripping a state party of delegates.

"I’m not going to do that. That just doesn’t make sense," Hann said in an interview. "Why would we give up a huge percentage of our influence at the national convention to move the presidential primary ahead a few weeks? It just doesn’t make sense to me."

Hann said he wasn't convinced that the potential for extra exposure would make up for the loss of delegates. He described himself as "philosophically neutral" on a date change.

"We’re not too invested in doing it," he said. "We’ll see what the DNC does. If they do move it on their side, I don’t know what happens next. But right now, that’s kind of low on the priority list."

Martin, who gathered elected officials in Washington to make Minnesota's case in June, said there would be benefits to voters here.

"I think it will be very beneficial to all Minnesota voters of all political stripes to have their voice heard in that early process," he said. 

In their application, Minnesota Democrats promoted the state's voter engagement -- Minnesota has the highest voter turnout in the country -- and increasingly diverse electorate.

Former Republican Gov. Tim Pawlenty endorsed the date change in June along with other former GOP elected officials.