WASHINGTON -- Democrats' presidential nominating calendar should have a new early lineup to better reflect ethnic and geographic diversity, with caucuses in one or two states after Iowa's and before New Hampshire's primary, a party commission recommended yesterday.
The proposal, requiring eventual approval by the Democratic National Committee, also would add primaries in one or two states after New Hampshire's.
After that, the election calendar would be open to other states by Feb. 5.
The commission did not identify any of the states that might fill the recommended caucuses and primaries near the start of the nominating process.
That decision would fall to the DNC's rules panel. There have been discussions about picking states from the South and Southwest.
The changes, aimed at 2008, are intended to give an early role in the nominating process to states with more ethnically diverse populations and to different regions of the country. Iowa and New Hampshire are predominantly white.
Prominent New Hampshire politicians from both parties objected to the commission's recommendation and pledged to oppose any plan that would put other states ahead of their primary.
''Frontloading the calendar with new caucuses would make the process narrower and less democratic, and it would be a huge setback to Democrats' efforts to carry Iowa and New Hampshire in the future," said Kathy Sullivan, chairman of the state Democratic party.
''This is the logical conclusion of an illogical commission," said Warren Henderson, chairman of the state Republican party. ''This commission set out to address a problem that doesn't exist."
The commission's proposal:
Affirmed the ''first in the nation" status of Iowa's caucuses and the New Hampshire primary.
Urged additional election events early in the campaign year involving states with ethnic, geographic, and income diversity.
Commissioners also recommended offering incentives for states to agree to hold their primaries later in the process, possibly offering bonus delegates to those who wait.
New Hampshire Democrats have said the plan, whose details emerged this week, would only jam contests at the front end of the nominating calendar and shorten the selection process.
New Hampshire's secretary of state, William Gardner, has said he would decide whether he must move up the state's primary to comply with a New Hampshire law that requires the primary to be scheduled a week or more before any ''similar election."
A caucus could fit in that category, Gardner said this week.
Governor Tom Vilsack of Iowa, attending the Florida Democratic Party's convention outside Orlando, said yesterday that he opposes the proposal to put caucuses between Iowa and New Hampshire's primary.
''It might well happen, but it's not something we support," Vilsack said.
''Iowa and New Hampshire do their jobs well."
Asked why he would take issue with a schedule that kept Iowa first and had a few states leapfrogging New Hampshire, the governor said, ''The question is how would New Hampshire react?"
He continued with a chuckle, ''And will they start leapfrogging and before you know it the Iowa caucuses are tomorrow?"