Iowa Republican Party officials have voted to set January 3, 2012 as the new date for the Iowa Caucuses.

“One thing that I have received clear guidance from Iowa Republicans on over the last week-and-a-half is the desire to make sure the Caucuses are in 2012,” Iowa GOP chair Matt Strawn said during an interview with Radio Iowa this evening.

The dates for the opening contests in the presidential nominating contest were thrown into doubt in late September when Florida officials moved up the date of the Florida Primary to January 31. South Carolina has moved its primary to January 21 and Nevada officials chose January 14 for the “first in the west” Caucuses. 

Late last week, the state official in New Hampshire who sets the date of New Hampshire’s first-in-the-nation primary indicated he was considering a date as early as December 6 if Nevada didn’t move back a bit on the January calendar. The Iowa GOP’s chairman is publicly pressuring Nevada, too, saying Nevada officials have “unnecessarily crowded” too far ahead.

“I think there’s an opportunity, if Nevada can move back just three days, that we can restore that order that we’ve traditionally had with Iowa, followed by New Hampshire and then continuing on in the process,” Strawn said tonight. 

The 2008 Iowa Caucuses were held on January 3 as well, but this time around national party officials had hoped to avoid holding contests in January.  The 2012 Iowa Caucuses were originally scheduled for February 6 and Strawn said the scramble’s on to adjust to the new date. 

“Having a firm date of January 3 accomplishes some certainty not just for the voters, not just for the candidates, but really allows us to do all the organizational planning necessary to get over 1700 precincts set up for Caucus night,” Strawn said.

The decision to set the date for the Iowa Caucuses was made earlier tonight by the Republican Party’s state central committee. Wes Enos, one of the members of that panel, said party leaders at the county level will start finding meeting sites for the more than 1700 precinct meetings.

“Unlike a lot of different states that can just set a primary and it’s a state election, we actually have to facilitate that at our level, which means people actually need lead time to prepare for caucus locations, caucus trainings and a lot of those kind of mechanisms that are required to pull off the Caucuses,” said Enos, who is working on Republican presidential candidate Michele Bachmann’s Iowa campaign.

The two major political parties in Iowa have historically held precinct caucuses on the same day and Iowa Democrats plan to move their caucuses to the same date.