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May 14th, 2010

Iowa Maintains First-In-The-Nation Status in 2012

Before you know it, presidential hopefuls will once again inundate the state of Iowa. If you want to get technical about it, you could easily say that we already are.

Congressman Ron Paul is scheduled to speak at the Campaign for Liberty’s mid-west conference in Des Moines tonight. Newt Gingrich is planning to barnstorm the state on May 26th, hitting Davenport, Cedar Rapids, and Des Moines. For months now, potential candidates like Mitt Romney, Mike Huckabee, George Pataki and Rick Santorum have been visiting the state.

Most Iowa Republicans are not focused on the 2012 caucuses yet. With contested races up and down the primary ballot, and Governor Culver being incredibly venerable, there is good reason for Iowa Republicans to not be looking too far ahead.

That said, earlier this week, the Republican National Committee’s Temporary Delegate Selection Committee (TDSC), recommended a rule that would continue to protect Iowa’s first-in-the-nation status., a move that sends a signal to potential presidential candidates that Iowa will once again will kick-off the nominating process.

The TDSC rule stated, “No primary, caucus, or convention to elect, select, allocate, or bind delegates to the national convention shall occur prior to the first Tuesday in March in the year in which a national convention is held. Except Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina, and Nevada may begin their processes at any time on or after February 1.”

Republican Party of Iowa Chairman Matt Strawn, told, “The rule that the TDSC recommend will punish any state other than Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina, and Nevada, that holds their primary or caucus before April 1st by allocating the delegates won in those contests proportionally, instead of winner take all.”

While that might deter some states, a few states already award delegates proportionally by congressional district, and other states might be willing to have their delegates awarded that way in exchange for all of the attention they would receive by moving up in the nomination calendar. The only way that the RNC can prevent frontloading is to not count the delegates from any state that doesn’t follow the RNC rules.

Strawn added that it would take a 2/3 vote of the RNC to pass the rule, which could happen at the summer RNC meeting in Kansas City.

While it’s not official, the TDSC’s recommendation signifies that Iowa will once again lead off the nominating process. What it does not do, however, is allow Iowans to set a date for the caucuses.

In the 2008 caucuses, the date wasn’t selected until October, just a few months before the caucuses. Hopefully that will not be the case for the 2012 caucuses, but for Iowa to maintain its status, it will have to react to any state that ignores RNC rules.

Iowans would like to believe that the reason presidential candidates visit the Hawkeye state is because they want to listen to our concerns. There is no doubt that these candidates do care and want to listen to what we have to say, but it’s not the great people of our state that bring these politicians here. It’s the first-in-the-nation caucuses.

Since 1976, the Iowa Caucuses have kicked off the presidential nominating process. Iowa’s first-in-the-nation status is a privilege, not a right. There are numerous states, mostly ones with a greater population and thus more electoral votes, that would love to steal the spotlight we receive every four years.

Fortunately, Iowa and the other small states that traditionally kick off the nominating process have done a good job making the case for why these small states should have such a major role in determining who the nominees are. The best case that states like Iowa, New Hampshire, and South Carolina can make is that candidates must engage in retail politics to be successful in each.

The caucuses also provide candidates without a huge war chest the ability compete. Larger states such as Florida, Michigan, Ohio, and California, would require candidates to run radio and TV ads in a number of media markets, while Iowa only have five.

The TDSC should be commended for their recommendation. If the RNC is able to vote on the nomination schedule this summer, hopefully the 2012 presidential campaign calendar will be more predictable and spaced out that it was in 2008.

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About the Author

Craig Robinson
Craig Robinson serves as the founder and Editor-in-Chief of Prior to founding Iowa's largest conservative news site, Robinson served as the Political Director of the Republican Party of Iowa during the 2008 Iowa Caucuses. In that capacity, Robinson planned and organized the largest political event in 2007, the Iowa Straw Poll, in Ames, Iowa. Robinson also organized the 2008 Republican caucuses in Iowa, and was later dispatched to Nevada to help with the caucuses there. Robinson cut his teeth in Iowa politics during the 2000 caucus campaign of businessman Steve Forbes and has been involved with most major campaigns in the state since then. His extensive political background and rolodex give him a unique perspective from which to monitor the political pulse of Iowa.

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