JOHNSTON – Iowa Republicans have penciled in Jan. 3 as the new date for the state’s first-in-the-nation precinct caucuses, but GOP state chairman Matt Strawn said Friday a final decision is contingent on talks with New Hampshire officials aimed at fending off challenges from other states “very jealous” of the lead-off status that Iowa and New Hampshire hold in the presidential nominating process.
Strawn said he has been directed by his party’s executive committee to “do everything possible to keep it in January” and to maintain Iowa’s No. 1 position in the presidential selection process. He declined to confirm reports that the committee’s consensus was to lock in Jan. 3 as Iowa’s 2012 caucus date.
“There’s been no final decision made on when the date of the caucus will be,” Strawn told reporters following Friday’s taping of Iowa Public Television’s “Iowa Press” show.
“There’s been no formal action taken setting a date for the Republican state central committee,” Strawn added. “We discussed a number of dates and a number of scenarios with the executive committee last night. I’m not prepared to confirm or talk about any specific date today.”
Strawn said he intended to talk with GOP leaders in New Hampshire, where party officials traditionally have set their primary eight days after Iowa’s first-in-the-nation caucuses. Four years ago, the two states agreed to protect their lead-off status by having Iowa go first on Jan. 3 and New Hampshire held its primary five days later. Strawn said that was a scenario that worked well in 2008 and could “provide some guidance on how to proceed” in 2012.
Drew Ivers, a member of Iowa’s GOP state central committee, said Jan. 3 emerged as a “consensus date” during a telephone meeting Thursday evening.
“That’s the consensus but it’s not official,” Ivers said in an interview. “We want to be able to secure our caucus as first in 2012 in the election year itself.”
He said he expected a final vote on the caucus date could come by Oct. 17.
Republican National Committee rules call for Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina to hold the first caucuses and primaries in the presidential selection progress.
Iowa originally was slated to hold its 2012 caucuses on Feb. 6, but Florida officials voted to ignore party rules and set their primary date on Jan. 31. After that, Nevada officials moved their date forward to Nov. 14 – touching off a leap-frog effect among the states authorized under party rules to hold the lead-off events in the presidential selection process. New Hampshire’s secretary of state has not yet set the date of his state’s primary.
“Every four years we are under attack by other states that are very jealous of the opportunity that we have to start the presidential process,” Strawn said. He said the current situation is creating problems for candidates and local Iowa party officials who have to organize caucus locations in about 1,700 precincts.
Sue Dvorsky, chairwoman of the Iowa Democratic Party, praised Strawn’s work in seeking to preserve Iowa’s first-in-the-nation position and she indicated Iowa Democrats would hold their precinct caucuses on the same date that Iowa Republicans settle on.
“I know that firewall of going into the previous calendar year, I’m confident that will not be breached,” Dvorsky said during a joint appearance with Strawn on the IPTV show.
“This is not for amateurs and not for the faint of heart,” she noted. “This is how we begin the process of selecting the leader of the greatest county on earth. It’s important.”
Strawn said he would like to resolve the caucus date “sooner rather than later,” noting that “we’re going to continue to monitor the situation and do what’s necessary to prevent us caucusing while wrapping Christmas gifts.”
Ivers said he is disappointed that the state parties have to go through this jockeying for primary and caucus dates every four years and he blamed the RNC for lacking effective sanctions that preserve the integrity of the process.
“The RNC seems to be losing control of the state parties in that the compliance is soft and apparently the penalties are too lenient. Losing half your delegates isn’t enough of a detriment for the state parties to fall in line with RNC rules,” said Ivers. In hindsight, he said he would have supported “yanking” the 2012 national convention site from Tampa given Florida’s action but he said the process is too far along to make that a viable option.
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