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September 30th, 2011

Get Ready for an Early January Caucus Unless the RNC Gets Tough With Florida

Even though members of the Republican National Committee voted to protect early primary and caucus states like Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina, and Nevada by a 103 to 41 margin last fall, the presidential nominating calendar is as uncertain as ever.  With Florida primed to move its primary to January 31st, early states like Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina, and Nevada have vowed to move as a block to maintain their early status.

Brian Kennedy, a former Chairman of the Republican Party of Iowa who also severed on the RNC’s temporary committee that proposed the new nomination rules, is disappointed that the primary calendar is once again on the verge of becoming frontloaded.  Kennedy told, “The goal was to elongate process so that it doesn’t in effect become a national primary.”

While the RNC had good intentions, the RNC lacks authority in some instances since an elected official or legislative body and not the Republican Party of a particular state sometimes determine the selection of the date.

Kennedy pointed out that the National Committeeman of Florida served on the committee that developed the new RNC rule, which he voted in favor of.  However, since the selection of a date is determined by the legislature, the Florida GOP can only make a suggestion as to when it should hold its presidential primary.

If Florida does indeed settle on January 31st as it’s primary date, the Iowa Caucuses will once again be forced to be held in early January.  Four years ago, the caucuses were held on January 3rd, much to the chagrin of the national media, who prefer not to spend New Years in Des Moines.  Also making things difficult is that January 2nd will be a national holiday, and college football bowl games dominate the first week of January.

As was the case four years ago, it may be imperative that the Iowa GOP takes a pro-active stance in selecting its date instead of waiting to see how things shake out.  The decision to move to January 3rd four years ago was arrived at for two separate reasons.  First, it allowed other early states such as New Hampshire, South Carolina and Nevada time to hold their primaries and caucus before Florida.  Second, the Iowa GOP had to set a solid date so it could work with its county organizations to identify caucus locations and deal with other caucus related logistics.

While the media seems to cover the jockeying of states in the nomination process as though the states are randomly moving pieces on a chessboard, the early January date complicates the organization of the caucuses more than it appears to casual observers.  Not only are the caucuses are an enormous volunteer effort, but so too is training caucus workers and getting precincts all the information and supplies that they need. It’s one thing to be doing this behind the scenes work on a week in late January, but it’s another thing when people have to be bothered over the holidays.

In a perfect world, RNC Chairman Reince Priebus would get tough with Florida. Priebus could remove the Republican national convention from Tampa as well as take away half of Florida’s delegates to the national convention.  The only problem is that it is unlikely that he would get tough with Florida’s decision to mess with the Republican nomination calendar.  Florida is a critical state when it comes to the electoral equation needed to win the presidency.  Florida lawmakers know this, and thus, they are playing a game of chicken with the RNC knowing full well that the likelihood they will be punished is slim to none.

Holding the caucuses in early January isn’t all bad.  In 2008, both Republicans and Democrats set records for caucus attendees despite the early date and possible holiday conflicts.   However, January 9th would be a much more tolerable date if Iowa is forced to move into January.

If Iowa holds its caucuses on the January 9th, New Hampshire could hold its primary on January 17th, and South Carolina and Nevada could hold their contests on the 21st or 28th.  Not only would that make for a jam-packed month of January, but in essence, it would create a national primary that the RNC set out to avoid.  That is, unless Chairman Priebus plans to actually enforce RNC rules.  Let’s hope he does.

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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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