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Dems' Caucus Date Up In Air

This story was written by Dean Treftz, The Daily Iowan
Following state Republicans' decision to move up their caucus date from Jan. 14, 2008, to Jan. 3, Iowa Democrats' caucus is still up in the air, and many county caucus planners are eying several days.

At issue are disagreements over how to stave off other states moving up their presidential-nominating contests and keep Iowa's caucuses at the forefront of national politics. The state Democratic Party's Central Committee would have to vote to change the date from Jan. 14.

Iowa political leaders largely agree that any decision by Democrats will likely come after New Hampshire's possible decision to move up its primaries.

In previous years, Iowa's caucuses came eight days before the New Hampshire primary. In 2008, if New Hampshire moves to Jan. 8 as many suspect, Iowa's Democratic caucuses could precede it by either three or five days.

Five days ahead of New Hampshire is "not as good as eight, but it's better than nothing," said former Iowa Democratic Party Chairman Dave Nagle, who supports moving the date to Jan. 3.

"The only thing that made [Jan.] 5 better was it gave us, as the ones who have to put on this caucus as a party, more time after the holidays," said Chuck Laudner, the executive director of the Republican Party of Iowa.

Laudner said that Republicans were more sure than Democrats that New Hampshire would move its primaries to Jan. 8, which allowed his party to make its move.

The earlier change by Republicans allows local precinct and county organizers more time to find locations that are available on Jan. 3, Laudner said.

"We don't want to wing it," he added.

Don Foor is organizing Louisa County's Democratic caucuses, and thanks to the turmoil, he is keeping his options open.

"Basically, I have not locked in [precinct locations] just to be on the safe side," said the former Louisa County Democratic chairman. While he is preparing for Jan. 14, he knows the call could come telling him to set up more than a week earlier.

Foor said it will be "the toughest caucus yet" to plan.

Several Democratic officials expressed regret that they may have to change their caucus date at all.

"I really dislike the Jan. 3 date that the Republicans have chosen," said Rick Mullin, a Democratic Central Committee member from Sioux City.

He said he'd rather keep the Jan. 14 date, but if New Hampshire moves before that, he would prefer Jan. 5. "Saturday is much more civilized," Mullin said.

As a former county chairman, he knows what it takes to organize a caucus.

"I had to come up with 48 locations each time, and negotiating with schools and other entities was interesting," Mullin said. "I sure am glad I'm not a county chairman this time."

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