Iowa Republicans set January 3 for caucus vote

DES MOINES, Iowa Mon Oct 17, 2011 11:43pm EDT

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DES MOINES, Iowa (Reuters) - Iowa Republican Party officials voted on Monday to set January 3, 2012, as the new date for the Iowa caucuses.

"One thing that I have received clear guidance from Iowa Republicans on over the last week and a half is the desire to make sure the caucuses are in 2012," Iowa Republican Party chairman Matt Strawn said in an interview.

The dates for the traditional opening contests in the national presidential nominating contests were thrown into doubt in late September when Florida officials moved up the date of the Florida primary to January 31.

South Carolina has moved its primary to January 21 and Nevada officials chose January 14 for the "first in the west" caucuses.

Late last week, the state official in New Hampshire who sets the date of New Hampshire's usual first-in-the-nation primary indicated he was considering a date as early as December 6 if Nevada didn't move back a bit on the January calendar.

The Iowa GOP's chairman is publicly pressuring Nevada, too, saying Nevada officials have "unnecessarily crowded" too far ahead.

"I think there's an opportunity, if Nevada can move back just three days, that we can restore that order that we've traditionally had with Iowa, followed by New Hampshire and then continuing on in the process," Strawn said.

The 2008 Iowa caucuses were held on January 3 as well, but this time around national party officials had hoped to avoid holding contests in January.

The 2012 Iowa Caucuses were originally scheduled for February 6 and Strawn said the scramble was on to adjust to the new date.

"Having a firm date of January 3 accomplishes some certainty not just for the voters, not just for the candidates, but really allows us to do all the organizational planning necessary to get over 1,700 precincts set up for caucus night," Strawn said.

The decision to set the date for the Iowa caucuses was made on Monday night by the Republican Party's state central committee. Wes Enos, one of the members of that panel, said party leaders at the county level will start finding meeting sites for the hundreds of precinct meetings.

The two major political parties in Iowa have historically held precinct caucuses on the same day and Iowa Democrats plan to move their caucuses to the same date, officials said.

(Editing by Peter Bohan)

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