The chairman of the Iowa GOP says states that try to leap ahead of Iowa’s Caucuses in 2016 will face the most severe penalty in party history. 

Iowa Republican Party chairman A.J. Spiker calls it the “biggest protection Iowa’s first-in-the-nation status has ever had.”

In 2008 and again this year the Iowa Caucuses were moved up from February and held on January 3 to maintain the state’s lead-off status in the presidential election cycle, as officials in other states like Florida advanced the date of their state primaries. Under the new GOP rules, a state that schedules its presidential primary or caucus before the end of February would only be able to send 12 delegates to the 2016 Republican National Convention.

“So (a state) like California that went into February would have 12 delegates instead of over 150, so it’s a big penalty,” Spiker says. “That’s one of the biggest, positive things that come out of the convention that impacts the first-in-the-nation status of the Republican Party of Iowa.”

States that have moved ahead on the presidential election calendar in the past, though, have escaped serious party penalties. By the time a national convention comes around, nervous presidential nominees do not wish to offend voters in states like Florida who are crucial for victory in November. GOP Convention delegates ratified the new get-tough-on-leapfroggers rule on Tuesday. Spiker says a bid to give the party’s next presumed presidential nominee the ability to dictate who could be a delegate at the 2016 convention has been thwarted.

“I believe that speaks volumes of a lot of us put in to make sure that it was the people rather than the politicians picking the delegates,” Spiker says. “It was a tremendous success of a broad coalition: Tea Party people, Evangelicals,  moderates, Ron Paul people — it was just a broad coalition to make sure that the grassroots continued to be the leader of that process.”

Republicans did approve one change which will require Iowa Republicans to do as Iowa Democrats have done for years and select delegates at the precinct caucus level based on the vote tally for each presidential candidate. That will prevent this year’s scenario which saw Ron Paul finish third in the Iowa Caucuses, but wind up with 22 of the 28 delegates Iowa sent to this week’s national convention in Tampa.

Democrats gather in Charlotte, North Carolina, next week for their national convention, but rules for how Democrats will operate state primaries and caucuses in 2016 are not on their convention agenda.