(Bloomberg) -- James Clyburn, the No. 3 US House Democrat credited with boosting Joe Biden’s 2020 campaign, said the president called him Thursday to say he was recommending that South Carolina replace Iowa as the first nominating contest.

The two men spoke by phone before Biden’s state dinner Thursday for French President Emmanuel Macron, which Clyburn attended as well. 

“He called me yesterday, before the dinner and he told me that’s what his decision was and I thanked him. And I told him I would see him later on in the evening and that was it. I was surprised,” Clyburn said in an interview Friday.

The Democratic National Committee later released a letter, dated Thursday, that Biden sent to its Rules and Bylaws panel that said: “We must ensure that voters of color have a voice in choosing our nominee much earlier in the process and throughout the entire early window.”

After poor performances in the Iowa caucuses and New Hampshire primary, Biden won the primary in South Carolina, where African-Americans make up a majority of Democratic voters. Clyburn campaigned heavily for Biden in the week ahead of that contest.

Should South Carolina ultimately be chosen to be first, it would be “a recognition of the fact that Black voters are a significant part of the Democratic electorate in these general elections and it means that we are recognizing that it’s required that whoever be put forth as a candidate be able to demonstrate some attractiveness to these voters,” Clyburn said.

Biden’s letter didn’t name individual states. White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre declined to comment Friday about Biden’s preference, citing federal law that places limits on executive branch officials discussing campaign politics.

“So here’s what I can say: as a candidate in 2020, as we have heard the night of the New Hampshire primary, heard directly from the president, Joe Biden, at that time made clear that to him, respecting our diversity as a nation and breaking down barriers for all our people is a foundational principle. He believes that what that’s what the Democrats also stand for, and he has upheld that principle as president,” Jean-Pierre said. 

The DNC committee meets this weekend to consider a proposal that would make South Carolina the first contest in the 2024 presidential campaign, followed by New Hampshire and then Nevada. Georgia and Michigan would follow, according to a person familiar with the proposal, who asked for anonymity to discuss private matters. 

Democrats have become disenchanted with Iowa as it has turned more Republican, After the 2022 midterms, its entire congressional delegation is Republican. In 2020, the chairman of the Iowa Democratic Party resigned over a bungled caucus that led to days of confusion as voters and candidates waited for final results.

--With assistance from Jordan Fabian and Akayla Gardner.

©2022 Bloomberg L.P.