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Primaries, caucuses, debates: Key dates ahead of the 2024 US presidential election

In World
January 15, 2024

The US will elect its new president this year on November 5. Before that happens, candidates including incumbent President Joe Biden and former president Donald Trump will have to jump through several hoops. The race to the finish line will be a busy one, fraught with caucuses, primaries, conventions and debates. These are the key dates to watch for in this highly charged year for US politics. 

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The 60th US presidential election is the political event on everyone’s lips this year. On November 5, a new POTUS will be chosen to occupy the White House for the next four years. Both the incumbent President Joe Biden and former president Donald Trump are in the race for a re-election and face a tough path ahead.

But in order to join the race to become president, candidates must first be nominated through caucuses and primaries.

Caucuses are meetings run by political parties organised at the county, precinct or district level. Participants split into groups according to the candidate they support, which determines the number of delegates each candidate will receive.

Primaries are held at the state level and allow citizens to vote for their preferred candidate anonymously, by casting a secret ballot. Results are then taken into account to award the winner delegates.

The Iowa caucus takes place on January 15 and is the curtain raiser, followed by the New Hampshire primary on January 23. The first major event on the calendar is Super Tuesday on March 5, when the majority of states hold primaries or caucuses to vote for their favourite candidate.

Delegates will then go on to represent their state at national party conventions before the big vote in November.

Iowa Republican caucus

January 15 – Republicans in Iowa kick off the race to the presidential election by holding the first caucus today. Up until now, GOP candidates have raced to make their pitch to voters. The outcome of the Iowa caucus is often a make-or-break moment for candidates vying to become the party nominee.

For Democrats in Iowa, things look a little different. They will choose their candidate entirely by mail-in ballot today and release the results on March 5, Super Tuesday. The decision prompted by President Biden is partly a response to the 2020 tech meltdown that delayed results and triggered hours-long waits for voters, but also a way of calling an end to a system he deems “restrictive” and “anti-worker”.

Republican presidential debates

January 18 – Broadcasters ABC News and WMUR-TV will host a Republican presidential primary debate in Manchester, New Hampshire. Candidates who came out on top in the Iowa caucus will be invited to spar alongside any other hopefuls who meet a 10% polling threshold.

January 21 – CNN will host a debate at New England College in New Hampshire. Again, the top three candidates from the Iowa caucuses will be invited to participate, as well as any candidates who “receive at least 10 percent in three separate national and/or New Hampshire polls of Republican primary voters that meet CNN’s standards for reporting,” according to CNN. “One of the three polls must be an approved CNN poll of likely New Hampshire Republican primary voters.”

New Hampshire primary

January 23 – The first primary run by state and local governments will be held in New Hampshire, where participants will vote for their preferred Republican or Democratic candidate in a secret ballot.

Though the Democratic National Committee (DNC) suggested changing the order of states, New Hampshire decided to hold on to their tradition of going first. Biden had pushed for the first-in-the-nation primary to be held in South Carolina, a state that helped catapult him into office in 2020 and whose population is much more diverse than New Hampshire’s.

The dispute means Biden’s name will be missing from the New Hampshire presidential primary ballot this year.

South Carolina Democratic primary

February 3 – South Carolina will vote in the Democratic primary. President Joe Biden specifically requested the first primary be held here because of the state’s large African-American population, who he hopes will help recharge his bid for re-election. The primary is not competitive, but it will be the first electoral test of Biden’s situation, as many local Democratic focus groups have expressed their disenchantment with the political process.

Moving the first primary here from Iowa marks the biggest change to the Democratic National Committee’s nomination process in decades.

The Republican primary in South Carolina will take place a few weeks later on February 24.

Nevada primary and caucus

February 6 – Democratic primary will be held in Nevada.

February 8 – Republican caucus will be held in Nevada.  

Michigan primary

February 27 – Both Republicans and Democrats will vote in this primary. Michigan, a Democratic-run state, brought forward its presidential primary in a move opposed by Republicans. Republicans will instead choose the majority of their delegates during caucuses a few days later in March.

Super Tuesday

March 5 – It’s the biggest day of primaries in the US and often helps whittle down the scope of candidates in the race to become president. A third of all delegates are awarded on this day alone, which is considered the most important day of the presidential nomination process.

Both Democrats and Republicans will hold primaries in over a dozen states including Alabama, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Maine, Massachusetts, Minnesota, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Texas, Vermont and Virginia.

Democrats in Utah will also vote in their primary while Republicans hold their caucuses in the state. Republicans in Alaska vote in their primary.

Last primaries of the race

March 12 ­– Georgia, Mississippi and Washington will each hold primaries. Republicans in Hawaii will hold caucuses.

March 19 – Primaries held in Arizona, Florida, Illinois, Kansas and Ohio.

June 4 – The last states to hold their presidential primaries will do so on this day. The clock is ticking for those states which have not yet set their primary or caucus dates.

National conventions

July 15 to 18 – Wisconsin will host the Republican national convention in Milwaukee, where the party will officially choose its candidate.

August 19 to 22 – The Democratic national convention will take place in Chicago, Illinois.

These conventions are important because they determine which presidential and vice presidential nominees will represent the Republican and Democratic parties. In order to become a presidential nominee, a candidate has to win the support of a majority of delegates. That usually happens through the party’s state primaries and caucuses.

State delegates will head to the national conventions to vote and confirm their choice of candidates. But if a candidate does not get the majority of a party’s delegates, convention delegates choose the nominee.

The two conventions are also when presidential nominees officially announce who will run with them for vice president, draw up an election programme and launch their autumn campaigns.

Presidential debates

September 16 – The first presidential debate will take place in San Marcos, Texas.

September 25 – The only vice-presidential debate will take place on this day in Easton, Pennsylvania.

October 1 The second presidential debate will take place in Petersburg, Virginia.

October 9 – The third and last presidential debate will take place in Salt Lake City, Utah.

Election day

November 5 – US voters who are registered will head to the polls in the final day of voting for the 2024 US presidential election. It could take days for the election result to be known, especially if it is close and mail-in ballots are a factor.

It takes 270 electoral votes out of a possible 538 to win the presidential election.

Results

January 6, 2025 – The sitting vice president presides over the Electoral College vote count at a joint session of Congress, announces the results and declares who has been elected.

This is the moment former president Trump lambasted his vice president Mike Pence in 2021 for refusing to try to prevent Congress from certifying Biden’s win. As a result, the US Capitol was stormed by rioters and some chanted “hang Mike Pence” as they tried to stop the count. Biden’s win was later certified.

Since then, Congress has passed the Electoral Count Reform Act of 2022, which requires approval of one-fifth of the House and Senate to consider a challenge to a state’s results – a much higher bar than existed before, when any single lawmaker from either chamber could trigger a challenge.

January 20, 2025 – The president and vice president are sworn into office at the inauguration ceremony.

This article was adapted from the original version in French.

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