Last week, the Florida Republican Party decided to flout Republican National Committee rules and upset the delicate applecart of American political traditions by moving its state's primary to Jan. 31. State officials anticipated that the four early primary/caucus states -- Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina and Nevada -- would make corresponding moves to stay ahead of Florida, leaving the Sunshine State in an enviable fifth position on the primary calendar. Here come those corresponding moves.
It had looked like Nevada might stand pat and allow itself to be leapfrogged. But state officials were definitely aggrieved by Florida's move. Nevada GOP Chairwoman Amy Tarkanian made this clear to Politico's Reid Epstein: "We're not happy with them, period. ... We have, what, 28 delegates? They have 99. So what do they care if they lose some? They didn't have to be bullies about this."
That simmering animosity has apparently boiled over. Nevada officials are now saying they will move their primary. According to Lynda Waddington of the Washington Independent, the "exact date is not yet known," but a move to "a Saturday in January that follows New Hampshire's yet-to-be-named primary date" is in the offing:
Nevada Republican Party Chairwoman Amy Tarkanian had considered moving the caucuses to the first week of February to avoid the delegate penalty while still holding the first vote in the West ahead of Colorado, according to the Las Vegas Review-Journal. But Tarkanian and the executive board, meeting by phone Saturday evening, determined it was more important to hold the nation's third presidential vote than to hold onto a full slate of delegates.
In South Carolina, where tension with Florida's state officials and their anticipated move has been in full flower for months, state GOP Chairman Chad Connelly is making a move to Jan. 21. CNN's Peter Hamby got the aggrieved statement from Connelly: "Last Friday, a nine-person committee brought chaos to the 2012 calendar. ... Today, South Carolina is making things right."
Meanwhile, we wait for Iowa and New Hampshire to make their corresponding calendar decisions, which are expected to bring up the curtain on the real 2012 competition at least a month ahead of schedule -- the most drastic scenarios involve December 2011 dates. For the traditional first states, picking a new date is a complicated dance around other major January events and ground-level logistical considerations. Waddington summarized what GOP officials in those states have to navigate around rather nicely:
Politicos involved with preliminary caucus discussions in the Hawkeye State tell The Iowa Independent that the state is likely to move to a date between Jan. 3 and 8, which would rule out a Monday night event. January 2, 2012, is the date the nation will observe the New Year's Day holiday, and is the date set for the Rose Bowl football game. Likewise, January 9 is the BCS national championship game.
If Iowa doesn't pick a Monday, it may need to strike a deal with New Hampshire, as it did in 2008 for a shortened window between the two contests, which have historically fallen eight days apart.
During 2010, the Iowa parties held their off-year caucuses on a Saturday. Not only was a move to Saturday pushed at a national level, but the state parties had hoped the non-weekday setting would allow for greater participation by the general public. Since the caucuses were held during the day, there was also hope that older residents wouldn't be off-put by traveling at night to caucus locations. Opposition to the move predominantly came from religious groups who recognize Saturday as a day of religious observation and those who felt the move bucked tradition.
Because the caucuses are community contests, there were also increased difficulties in locating and reserving venue space -- many of which, like school gymnasiums and community centers, are often in use on Saturday mornings.
Waddington anticipated that Iowa would hold its caucuses on Jan. 3, with New Hampshire following a week later, and Nevada and South Carolina holding their contests on consecutive Saturdays -- the 21st and 28th, respectively. But now that South Carolina is set to hold its primary on the 21st, everyone else could be pushed even earlier.
Happy New Year, everyone.
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