(Barbara Davidson / Los Angeles…)
Iowa Republicans have set Jan. 3 as the date for their presidential caucuses, leaving New Hampshire as the only early-voting state without a firm date for its nominating contest.
The Iowa Republican Party had said it would wait for the Granite State to set its first-in-the-nation primary date before determining when to hold the precinct caucuses. But with the quadrennial round of jockeying among states, and New Hampshire's secretary of state considering a December primary, the party acted unilaterally.
"A Jan. 3 date provides certainty to the voters, to our presidential candidates, and to the thousands of statewide volunteers who make the caucus process a reflection of the very best of our representative democracy," state Republican Party Chairman Matt Strawn said in a statement.
Jan. 3 is the same date both Republicans and Democrats caucused in the 2008 contest. New Hampshire's primary followed five days later.
Uncertainty over the 2012 calendar began last month when Florida state leaders set that state's primary for Jan. 31, in violation of party guidance meant to protect the four leadoff states -- Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina and Nevada.
South Carolina Republicans reacted to Florida's decision by setting its primary for Jan. 21. Nevada Republicans then set their caucuses for Jan. 14.
Republican leaders hoped New Hampshire would then set its primary for Jan. 10. But New Hampshire Secretary of State Bill Gardner said that would not comply with state law requiring seven days between the primary and any "similar election."
Gardner said last week he was prepared to call for a primary as early as Dec. 6 if Nevada did not change. Some Republican candidates then pledged to boycott the Nevada caucuses, though only those who had already largely written off the state.
In 2008, Gardner set the Jan. 8 primary on Nov. 21, a gap of nearly seven weeks. A Dec. 6 primary would be seven weeks from Tuesday.
New Hampshire has not voted before Iowa's caucuses in decades. In his statement, Strawn said his state nonetheless expressed solidarity with Iowa.
"At a time when more and more Americans feel disconnected from our national leaders, we need places like Iowa and New Hampshire that require those who seek to lead us, actually meet us, look us in the eye and listen to our hopes and concerns for our families and our nation," he said.
Strawn said he would seek to "hold Florida accountable for creating this mess," and also Nevada, a "newcomer" to early voting, for making it worse.
"Time remains for Nevada to respect the process, honor tradition and rectify the problem in a way that will restore order to the nomination calendar," he said.