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Iowa GOP To Set Caucus Date For Jan. 3

A Republican official tells CBS News that Iowa Republicans will schedule their caucuses for Thursday, January 3, 2008. The Iowa Republican State Committee is expected to make this date official in a conference call this evening.

Iowa Democrats continue to say they are staying with their scheduled caucus date of Monday, January 14, 2008, though that date could change. Both parties have held their caucuses on the same day in years past.

Iowa's caucuses have been the first statewide presidential nominating contest in the nation for the past 35 years. Jockeying among the states to be at the front of the pack in the nominating schedule has resulted in uncertainty in the date for the caucuses, with speculation that they might be scheduled for as early as December, 2007.

New Hampshire, which traditionally holds the first primary in the nation, has not set a date for its primary. South Carolina, Michigan, Nevada, and Florida are among the states scheduled to hold early contests as well, though some may lose delegates for violating their party's scheduling rules. On February 5, more than 20 states are expected to hold their nominating contests.

A strong finish in the Iowa caucuses is considered important for presidential candidates looking for momentum as the primary season gets under way, and campaigns have poured money and volunteers into the state. The candidates themselves have spent a significant amount of their time in the state: According to a recent Iowa poll, one in four caucus-bound Iowans have met at least one presidential candidate, and forty-three percent have been to a campaign event where a candidate has appeared.

Democrats John Edwards and Sen. Barack Obama are campaigning in the state today, and Democratic Sen. Joe Biden and Republican Mitt Romney are scheduled to campaign there later this week.