Iowa expects to hold its presidential caucuses on January 3, instead of February 6, according to a reporter for the Des Moines Register. This is an important step in getting the wrangled-over schedule of the GOP primaries -- which has, in recent weeks, been a source of tumult -- into focus.
The Register reports that the new date is tentative. A Republican central committee member told the Hawkeye State-based outlet that the calendar change will receive a formal vote around October 16. The committee member signaled there was "a real clear consensus" on the January 3 date.
The potential good news here, is that while this means political reporters will have to celebrate the New Year in Des Moines, it represents the best hope we have for keeping primary contests from spilling into December of 2011.
Obviously, it's not a done deal. Attention now shifts eastward, to New Hampshire, where a decision from New Hampshire Secretary of State Bill Gardner will hopefully be the last piece of the puzzle. As has been previously reported, Gardner isn't planning on revealing his decision before next week.
But Iowa may have settled the matter. As Josh Putnam reckoned, New Hampshire -- which goes after Iowa -- had two likely choices for their primary: January 7th or January 3rd. The former choice was the more likely then, and as Iowa's claimed the 3rd for themselves, it's even more likely now.
But there's no telling at this point what one of these early states might do if they feel like they've been intruded upon. After all, it was Florida's decision to move onto South Carolina's turf that precipitated this crisis in the first place, and put the territorial nature of the primary season in sharp relief.
The Sunshine State was the first to pull a scheduling shift. On the heels of their move Iowa GOP Chairman Matt Strawn said in a statement, "The arrogance shown by Florida’s elected leadership is disappointing, but not surprising."
He added, "Regarding the timing of the First in the Nation Iowa Caucuses, Iowa will remain first. Consistent with tradition, the final Iowa Caucus date will be announced once New Hampshire sets the date of its First in the Nation Primary."
As Iowa has decided not to wait, it's hard to shake the feeling that Iowa GOP officials -- for all the good intentions they've displayed by not ruining Christmas for everybody -- may have, in these late stages of calendar shaping, jumped out of turn by making a decision ahead of New Hampshire's decision. It still seems pretty likely that New Hampshire will settle on the January 7th date, but as we've seen throughout this process, when you force the hand of an early primary state, they don't react well.