Iowa GOP sets Jan. 3 caucus

After months of confusion, next year’s nominating calendar became a little more clear Tuesday night after the Iowa Republican Party’s state central committee announced it would hold its caucuses on Jan. 3, 2008.

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“With under 80 days to go, this is a huge help to our counties and county chairs to get the ball rolling and start organizing,” said Chuck Laudner, executive director in a statement. “They have 1,784 precinct caucus meetings to run, thousands of volunteers to recruit and our presidential candidates deserve a set date. This is a definitive year for Iowa, and it is crucial that RPI, the State Central Committee and our county organizations run a smooth, successful caucus.”

The state’s Democratic Party did not make any announcements Tuesday night except to say that it will “decide our caucus date based ultimately on what is best for the people of Iowa and the Democratic Party.”

The statement from the state party also said that state officials would “continue to work with pre-window states and the Democratic National Committee to determine a date that maintains Iowa's important role as First-in-the-Nation caucus.”

Also Tuesday night, the South Carolina Democratic Party announced it will request a waiver from the DNC to move its primary to Jan. 26.

The early-voting calendar that was originally set by both the DNC and the Republican National Committee was thrown into turmoil this summer when the Florida legislature and Gov. Charlie Crist (R) moved Florida’s primary ahead of the DNC-sanctioned Feb. 5 window. Michigan lawmakers followed suit, moving their primary to Jan. 15. In the case of the Democrats, the DNC severely punished the rule-breaking states, stripping them of their convention delegates.

The Democratic candidates joined the DNC, signing a pledge not to campaign in states that violated DNC rules. Last week, several of the leading Democratic candidates, including Sens. Barack Obama (Ill.), Joseph Biden (Del.), former Sen. John Edwards (N.C.) and New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson withdrew their names from the Michigan ballot on the day of the deadline to do so. Sens. Hillary Rodham Clinton (N.Y.) and Christopher Dodd (Conn.) elected to stay on.

All eyes now turn to New Hampshire Secretary of State Bill Gardner who has almost sole discretion in setting the date for the New Hampshire primary. It also remains to be seen what Nevada, set by the DNC to follow Iowa but preface New Hampshire, will do.

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