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Iowa Dems Move Caucus Date To Jan. 3

This story was written by Dean Treftz, The Daily Iowan
Iowa Democrats followed their Republican counterparts on Sunday in switching their presidential-nominating caucuses from Jan. 14, 2008, to Jan. 3.

The Iowa Democratic Party made the move during a conference call on Sunday night. Chairman Scott Brennan had announced on Oct. 25 he would recommend Jan. 3 to the Democratic state central committee during the call.

"Holding the caucuses on the same day as the Republican Party of Iowa shows solidarity and unity in working to protect Iowa's first-in-the-nation status, an important argument in the years to come," Brennan said in a statement after the vote Sunday.

Both Jan. 3 and Jan. 5 had been discussed as possible dates. Jan. 5, a Saturday, was touted as a way to boost participation and others promoted Jan. 3, a Thursday, thanks to its position firmly before that weekend's news cycle.

The Democrats hope, as the Republicans do, that the move will successfully fend off other states from moving up their nominating contests.

Florida's Democratic and Republican parties have moved up their primaries from Feb. 3 to Jan. 29, and the Michigan Legislature scheduled a primary on Jan. 15. Both of those moves have prompted other traditional leadoff states, such as South Carolina and now Iowa, to move up their contests in order to preserve their influence.

University of Iowa political-science Associate Professor Cary Covington broke the Democrats move down into two primary effects.

The Democrats choosing the same date as the Republicans prevents voters from "double-dipping," he said. The Jan. 3 date also ensures that the caucuses stay as far away from any other January nominating events, keeping the state's results as effective as possible, he said.

Though everything depends on New Hampshire.

"Everybody's assuming that New Hampshire will be going on [January] 8," Covington said. "Of course, New Hampshire could go in December -- who knows?"

Now that the Democrats officially moved their caucus date, organizers across the state can finally start preparing, nearly two weeks after their Republican counterparts began.

"There's some nuts-and-bolts things that we need to do," such as securing locations and ensuring local party workers can staff the precincts that night, said Brian Flaherty, the Johnson County Democrats chairman. "But all that stuff is doable."

Flaherty said the move hopefully will keep the Iowa caucuses as the first nominating contest in the nation and no states will try to pre-empt the state by moving into December.

"We're electing the new president in 2008; we should begin the process in 2008," he said.

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