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Primary Timeline
By Matt Warshauer

election map
The South Carolina Democratic Party will hold that state’s presidential Primary election on February 3, 2004, about three weeks earlier than the last primary in 2000.  A presidential primary is an election to choose a party candidate to run in the general election.  Members of a specific party vote for the candidate they’d like to see represent the Party in the general election. But what does an earlier primary mean for your campaign?

Early primaries have increased the importance of small states in the presidential race.  By holding early primaries, states with few electoral votes, like Iowa and New Hampshire, can attract your attention and get you to consider their issues.

By moving up its primary, South Carolina (with seven electoral votes) hopes to position itself alongside Iowa and New Hampshire as one of the most important primary battlegrounds.  South Carolina will be the first test of the Democratic candidates’ popularity in the South.  South Carolina also offers something Iowa and New Hampshire does not: the cross-section of voters most important to a Democratic victory come November.

Unlike Iowa or New Hampshire, South Carolina has a large base of African-Americans and moderate to conservative Democrats—the voters a Democratic candidate will need to clinch the election.  The results of the South Carolina primary will point the Democratic Party toward the candidate with the best shot at beating President George W. Bush.

Eleven of the most important primaries will be held on March 2, known as Super Tuesday.  The outcome in those states will most likely determine the Democratic Party’s nominee. Elections in other states after that date won’t have much impact on the race for the party nominations.

Check out the map above. Which states are you most likely to visit early in your campaign?