The Republican Party of Iowa's central committee moved its presidential-nominating caucuses up from Jan. 14, 2008, to the night of Jan. 3 in a vote Tuesday.
The new date could help ensure that Iowa's caucuses remain the first Republican nominating contest in the nation.
The change is the most recent shift in an already turbulent nominating calendar. Pressure to move the caucuses up first began when Florida and Michigan moved their dates into January. Florida's primaries are at present scheduled for Jan. 29, and Michigan's are on Jan. 15.
"With under 80 days to go, this is a huge help to our counties and county heads to get the ball rolling and start organizing," said Chuck Laudner, the Iowa Republican Party's executive director, in a statement announcing the decision. "They have 1,784 precinct caucus meetings to run, thousands of volunteers to recruit, and our presidential candidates deserve a set date."
Local Republican organizers across the state must now reserve sites for the new caucus date.
Many eyes may now turn to the Iowa Democratic Party and New Hampshire Secretary of State Bill Gardner, who oversees the state's primary date. The Iowa Democrats are still set to caucus on Jan. 14, and New Hampshire is scheduled to hold its primaries on Jan. 22.
Some in the Iowa Democratic Central Committee have "basically talked in the past of waiting until New Hampshire" announces its date, said Jerry Lynch, a member of the committee from Bernard, Iowa. "I still have a terrible fear of making a decision and having New Hampshire going ahead" of Iowa.
Democrats have not ruled out scheduling a date different from that of the Republicans. In a release, the Iowa Democratic Party promised to chose a date based on "what is best for the people of Iowa and the Democratic Party."
The two most likely dates for the Democratic caucuses are Jan. 3 and Jan. 5.
"We'll do what we have to do stay in the line ahead of New Hampshire," said Bonnie Eggers, a Democratic Central Committee member from Agency, Iowa. As a member of the Wapello County Democrats, Eggers might have to shift precinct caucus locations should the Democrats move their caucus date.
Though Eggers said she would like to see a Saturday caucus so more can participate, that's not a deal-breaker for her. Keeping Iowa first is the most essential, she said.
The caucuses must be important to the presidential-nominating process both for the state and for candidates who have devoted resources here, Eggers said.
The candidates "are spending millions of dollars here, and in some cases, years of their lives, so they should get that bounce," she said.
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© 2007 The Daily Iowan via U-WIRE