Iowans won’t have much time to stow away the champagne glasses, funny hats and noisemakers from New Year’s Eve parties before it’s time to get out the campaign signs, funny hats and noisemakers for precinct caucuses.
Once again, Iowans will go from ringing in the New Year to wringing out the caucus campaign Jan. 3 at more than 1,700 precincts across the state.
The Republican Party of Iowa State Central Committee has settled on Tuesday, Jan. 3, the same date as four years ago.
“For a few seconds, it felt like the weight of the world had been lifted from my shoulders,” Iowa GOP Chairman Matt Strawn said Oct. 18.
There was a “great sigh of relief” from GOP county officials to have a date locked in, Strawn said. “They were getting antsy.”
Likewise, the decision “gives us a sense of certainty,” said Sam Roecker, spokesman for the Iowa Democratic Party, which has been waiting for Republicans to set a date. Iowa Democrats are expected to adopt a Jan. 3 precinct caucus date when they have a telephonic State Central Committee meeting Oct. 20.
Now that the parties have a date, their county officials can lock down locations for the caucuses.
“It just doesn’t happen overnight,” Roecker said.
Many caucus sites – schools, churches, local government buildings — are used election cycle after election cycle. Strawn noted that many schools, for example, will be on Christmas break Jan. 3, “so there’s no guarantee there will be any activity in those buildings.”
“And for those who aren’t fortunate to live in Iowa and have to travel here to cover the caucuses, we want make sure they can make their holiday plans,” he added.
Although Iowa Republican National Committeeman Steve Scheffler said the date is “in stone, period,” Strawn said it is possible the State Central Committee could reconvene should New Hampshire choose a date in December.
“Can a date be reset? Yes,” Strawn said. “Do I anticipate a change? No.”
So the focus shifts to New Hampshire and Nevada, which seem to be having a stare-down over their respective primary and caucus dates. Nevada has circled Jan. 14 on the calendar for the first-in-the-West caucuses. That doesn’t leave enough time between Iowa and Nevada for the Granite State’s first-in-the-nation primary, according to New Hampshire Secretary of State Bill Gardner.
New Hampshire law requires the primary – usually on a Tuesday — to take place at least one week before a similar election. Gardner has determined that the Nevada caucuses are a “similar election.”
Gardner has said he won’t set a date this week. He did move the filing deadline for candidates to get on the primary ballot to Oct. 28, However, Gardner may wait longer than that to set a primary date.
“He will out-wait anyone,” former New Hampshire GOP Chairman Fergus Cullen said about Gardner. “Last time he announced the date late afternoon the day before Thanksgiving.”
New Hampshire GOP leaders have joined Strawn in calling on Nevada to move its caucus date to make time for New Hampshire to have a Jan. 10 primary.
“Nevada could really help solve this problem,” said New Hampshire Republican National Committeeman Steve Duprey. “If they were to move 72 hours later — a small change — this problem would go away, and I remain hopeful they might do so.”
“There’s still an opportunity for Nevada to adjust their date,” Strawn said. Nevada’s equivalent of a state central committee meets Saturday, he said, adding that senior Republican officials are in Las Vegas for the CNN GOP candidate debate, “so it’s likely calendar discussions are taking place.”
“With overwhelming sentiment of our State Central Committee that Jan. 3 is our caucus date, I’m hopeful there is still time for resolution to be reached with New Hampshire and Nevada so the entire process will take place in 2012,” Straw said Tuesday.
After Nevada set a Jan. 14 date, Gardner suggested having the primary Dec. 6 or 13. However, federal law requires military ballots to be mailed 45 days before an election. That seems to rule out an early December primary.
In the meantime, New Hampshire politicians are pressuring the candidates to boycott the Nevada caucuses.
Jon Huntsman Jr. was the first to join the boycott of Nevada and pulled out of the debate. Rep. Michele Bachmann, Herman Cain, Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum have expressed varying degrees of support for the boycott. Mitt Romney, and Texans Gov. Rick Perry and Rep. Ron Paul have so far remained committed to campaigning in the Silver State.
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