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The Nation

Democrats to Move Up '04 Primaries

January 20, 2002|From Reuters

WASHINGTON — The Democratic Party decided Saturday to allow states to hold their presidential nominating contests more than a month earlier in 2004 than they did in 2000, to follow the Republicans' front-loaded schedule.

Under a measure approved on a voice vote at a meeting of about 300 elected members of the Democratic National Committee, a presidential contender could have the party's nomination sewn up as early as February 2004.

Proponents of the change contend it would better position Democrats to challenge President Bush's reelection bid in 2004 by keeping candidates in the public eye during February; Republicans held five state primaries that month in 2000.

Leading Democrats also used the meeting to criticize Bush on economic policy, an issue likely to play prominently during this year's congressional elections as the federal budget heads into deficit for fiscal year 2003.

"The Bush administration seems to be running fiscal policy the way the folks at Enron ran their company," Democratic Party Chairman Terry McAuliffe said in reference to the bankruptcy of Enron Corp., a Houston-based energy company.

Democrats held no primary votes during February 2000 after the traditional leadoff battles in Iowa and New Hampshire.

The change does not require any state Democratic primaries to be advanced, but allows state legislatures to schedule them in February 2004, especially if Republicans again schedule several of their contests for that month.

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