Ever since the 1996 presidential election, the start of the nomination calendar has been in flux. That year, Hawaii, Alaska, and Louisiana each held their caucuses before Iowa and New Hampshire held their contests. It’s hard to believe that Pat Buchanan won three of the first five states in 1996. Buchanan scored victories in Alaska, Louisiana, and New Hampshire, but ultimately lost the Republican nomination to Bob Dole.
If a modern day candidate was able to put together a string of early victories like Buchanan did in ’96, it’s hard to believe they wouldn’t be the Republican nominee. Presidential politics has changed dramatically over the last 16 years, but the jockeying of the primary calendar has been an unfortunate constant.
The chaos in the nomination calendar is at an all time high this cycle. It’s also not a coincidence that the volatility in the primary calendar over the past four years has seemed to help one candidate in particular – Mitt Romney.
Multiple news reports indicate that Romney lobbied the Nevada GOP to set its caucus on January 14th. In fact, the Las Vegas Review-Journal reported, “We moved the date for the good of Nevada, not the Romney campaign,” said former Gov. Robert List, the GOP national committeeman on the board, who went on to add, “But Romney’s people were pushing for us to move into January so that he could get some momentum and have a rising tide going into Florida.”
What the paper failed to mention is that Romney’s former campaign aide, Gentry Collins, and Collins’ public affairs firm was hired by the Nevada Republican Party to serve as its advisor for the 2012 caucuses. Collins, a former Executive Director of the Republican Party of Iowa, is part of a new public relations firm called, CAP Public Affairs. The firm also includes Jim Anderson, another former Iowa GOP executive director.
With two former Iowa GOP bosses consulting the Nevada Republican Party, it seems odd that they would advise the Nevada GOP to select a date that would throw a wrench in the slotting of the Iowa caucuses and New Hampshire primary. That is, unless they were somehow trying to aid the Romney campaign’s desire to move up Nevada’s caucuses to mid January.
Nevada Republicans initially indicated that they would not move the date of their primary into January because they did not want to lose half of their delegates to the national convention. However they quickly changed their tune, and set their caucus for January 14th. While the Romney advocates have stated that Romney encouraged Nevada to move forward in hopes that it would help him maintain momentum after winning New Hampshire, one could also speculate that there was a more sinister motive for Romney.
The Romney people likely knew that placing the Nevada caucuses on January 14th would put a major squeeze on Iowa and New Hampshire. It’s conceivable that they also believed that New Hampshire would select an early January date, thus forcing Iowa into December to remain first in the nomination order. There is just one problem. For that to happen, New Hampshire would have needed to select its day quickly, and quickness is not an attribute that Secretary of State Gardner possesses. Instead, Iowa announced that it would hold its caucuses on January 3rd, a move that the State Central Committee plans to formalize on Monday.
While Gardner may be difficult to work with, he’s not about to be the pawn of a presidential candidate, even one who happens to own a home in New Hampshire. Now there is a serious possibility that New Hampshire could hold its primary in early December, and with Romney already having a substantial lead in the polls there, the contest could be rendered meaningless because of a December date, and the fact that Romney appears to have the state sown up.
So, it is possible that Romney’s manipulation of the nomination calendar could now backfire on him. If New Hampshire holds its primary in December, and Iowa holds firm on January 3rd, Romney may be forced to compete in the very state that he has basically ignored since 2008 and attempted to make irrelevant because he will need to find a substantial victory heading into Florida.
Romney doesn’t seem to be backing off. Last night, his campaign announced they wouldn’t join the boycott of the Nevada Caucuses if the Nevada GOP sticks with their January 14th date. Still, it might be wise for Romney to encourage the Nevada to slide back to the 17th to provide the necessary space for New Hampshire to hold its primary on the 10th. If Nevada doesn’t budge, Romney may have singlehandedly rendered the New Hampshire primary meaningless by forcing it into December.
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