Iowa has tentatively set a caucus date of January 3, setting the scene for a potential conflict with New Hampshire, which will either be forced to hold its primary with less of a buffer before other states or push it as far back as December to maintain its primary status.
The Des Moines Register first reported the new date, which was tentatively agreed upon Thursday evening during a phone call with the Iowa GOP central committee. Iowa GOP Chairman Matt Strawn said he would wait to make the date definite, pending discussions with New Hampshire.
The schedule changes are a result of Florida moving its primary to January 31, violating Republican National Committee rules, in order to make its primary more relevant. The four states sanctioned by the RNC to hold their primaries early — Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina — therefore said they would move their primaries to before Florida’s to preserve their early status.
January 3 was seen as a likely date for the New Hampshire primary, which by state law is required to be at least seven days before or after any other nominating process, and is traditionally held on a Tuesday. After Nevada announced it would hold its caucus on January 14, the third was the first viable date in 2012 that would fit those conditions.
If Iowa’s caucus is on January 3, New Hampshire’s caucus would likely have to be pushed back to December. Secretary of State Bill Gardner, who controls the date of the New Hampshire primary, has indicated that he is reluctant to bend the aforementioned rules. He has said he will not decide the New Hampshire primary date until October 17, when the filing period for candidates ends, at the earliest, in order to ensure New Hampshire’s first-in-the-nation primary status.
The Des Moines Register reported that Strawn, on Iowa television Friday, said that “that GOP leadership will do everything possible to keep the caucus in January.”