As unappealing as it might be to think about serving Thanksgiving leftovers at the Iowa precinct caucuses, it remains a real possibility.
New Hampshire Secretary of State Bill Gardner has sent shivers up the backs of Iowa political activists with a warning – or, perhaps, a threat – the Granite State might hold its first-in-the-nation presidential primary Dec. 13 — or even as early as Dec. 6.
Typically, the New Hampshire primary is eight days after the Iowa caucuses. If Iowa maintains that interval, the caucuses would be Nov. 28 – the Monday after Thanksgiving.
“If New Hampshire moves to December, then Iowa would have to predate that,” Democratic Sen. Tom Harkin said Oct. 13. “We don’t want to start in December, but that could happen.”
In New Hampshire, Democratic National Committee Vice Chairman and New Hampshire Democratic Party Chairman Raymond Buckley seemed resigned to that possibility.
“Only God and Bill Gardner know that,” Buckley said when asked when the primary would be held.
“If he has to pick December, he’ll pick December,” added James Pindell, political director at WMUR-TV in Manchester, New Hampshire.
The chicken game between New Hampshire and Nevada over the dates of their respective primary and caucus is causing some heartburn, especially for Iowa Republicans.
“Yeah, there’s some frustration with the calendar,” said Ryan Gough of the Republican Party of Iowa. “No one wants to do it in December, what with Christmas, but our folks are willing to work to make it the best it can be whenever they are.”
Caucus organizers have to line up locations, which is difficult to do when they don’t know what date to reserve.
“We want to give people as much time as possible, so the sooner we can make a decision, the better,” Gough said.
That might not be any time soon, said Dennis Goldford, professor of politics at Drake University. The decision is left up to Gardner and party leaders in Iowa and other states. There is no central authority, Goldford said, to intervene when states choose to play leap-frog with the calendar.
In the meantime, it’s not only the state parties and their members caught in the calendar crunch, Goldford said.
“When you keep jiggling the calendar, you keep changing the nature of the playing field,” he said. If candidates “don’t know what the playing field looks like, how can they know what sort of strategy to adopt.”
The strategy for now is to wait, according to Gough, who indicated the Iowa GOP will not set a caucus date this week.
“Check back next week. We’ll be closer then,” he said.