DES MOINES - Iowa Republicans voted Monday night to set a Jan. 3 date for their precinct caucuses to select a 2012 presidential nominee.
They said they took the action to provide some certainty to the field of GOP presidential candidates and local party leaders in more than 1,700 precincts who need to nail down locations for what they hope will remain the first say in the 2012 presidential nominating process.
The Iowa GOP's state central committee unanimously agreed to set Iowa's lead-off caucuses at 7 p.m. on Tuesday, Jan. 3. Now they hope the other states will fall in line that have created a chaotic calendar by moving up their primary and caucus dates.
Iowa GOP chairman Matt Strawn said Monday's action was intended to "aggressively guard" Iowa's lead-off status while scheduling the caucuses in the year that the presidential election will take place.
Strawn said the nominating process is best served with Iowa and New Hampshire continuing in their lead-off roles: Iowa as the first caucus state; and New Hampshire as the first primary, in that order.
New Hampshire Secretary of State Bill Gardner has indicated he may set his state's primary in December to provide enough space between interloping states like Florida, which ignored national party officials by moving its date to Jan. 31, and Nevada - one of the four designated early states in the nominating process that also moved up its date to Jan. 14.
Strawn said he has been in close contact with New Hampshire officials and will "wait and see what happens" if an orderly resolution to the unauthorized date shifting is not resolved.
"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," Strawn said.
The Iowa GOP leader pledged to "do everything in my power" through the Republican National Committee "to hold Florida accountable for creating this mess, but the culpability for creating a compressed January calendar does not end there. The actions of early state newcomer Nevada have also exacerbated this problem and unnecessarily crowded the January calendar. 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."
Strawn said he hoped the issue would come up during Tuesday night's televised GOP presidential candidate debate in Las Vegas.
In a prepaered statement, Strawn said the Jan. 3 date will be " the first step Iowans will have to replace Barack Obama and his failed presidency."