It appears more than likely that Iowa’s Caucuses will be held in early January rather than on February 6. Florida officials are reportedly set to announce that Florida’s Primary will be held on January 31.
“We’ll wait to see what Florida ultimately does on Friday,” Matt Strawn, chairman of the Republican Party of Iowa, said during an interview with Radio Iowa. “But the one thing that Iowans need to know is that we will be first. The only open question is the date on which we hold our first-in-the-nation Caucuses.”
Republican National Committee rules forbid all but four states from holding primaries or caucuses before March 6th, and the date for the Iowa Caucuses had been set for February 6. But that was before other states, including Arizona and Michigan as well as Florida, started flirting with dates in February and, now, even January.
“I hope we don’t have to move up to the beginning of the year. If we do, we will,” Strawn said. “But this also just elevates the importance of doing well in Iowa for the Republican candidates.”
Strawn and other Iowa party officials will wait ’til the three other “early” states, notably New Hampshire, move the dates of their contests. Strawn hopes to avoid moving all the way into December of 2011, but he’s not ruling it out either.
“I don’t think any candidate nor Iowan wants to caucus before the holiday season, so I’m still cautiously optimistic we can avoid that,” Strawn said. “But we are going to do what’s necessary to make sure that Iowa retains that first-in-the-nation status.”
The 2008 Iowa Caucuses were held on January 3. Moving the 2012 Iowa Caucuses up, again, to the first week in January shaves a little more than a month off the campaign schedule for candidates. According to Strawn, it means candidates who do poorly in Iowa and the other “early” states of New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina will have a narrow window to try to recover and continue.
“Ironically, in attempting to assert increased relevance in the process, Florida’s move only elevates the importance of Iowa and the other early states,” Strawn said late this morning, “because a compressed calendar makes doing well in Iowa a necessity for a Republican candidate who wants to secure the nomination.”
States have ’til Friday to set the dates for presidential primaries and caucuses. Strawn says he is in “close contact” with officials in New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina, all of which are likely to move their contests into January because of Florida’s expected move to hold its primary on January 31. Republican National Committee rules penalize states that do leapfrog ahead in the presidential election calendar. Florida, for example, stands to lose half its delegates to the party’s national convention in the summer of 2012. If the party’s nominating process is unsettled and the candidate gets picked at the convention, it means Florida’s influence on that decision would be diluted.