Wyoming GOP Chooses to Move Up Delegate Conventions, Faces Penalty

Wyoming Republicans have fired the latest shot in the battle among state parties jockeying for position in the presidential nomination process, despite a threats of sanctions from national party officials on both sides of the aisle.

The Wyoming Republican party moved their delegate-selection conventions to Jan. 5, which for now puts it before the perennial front-runners, Iowa and New Hampshire. But the situation isn't expected to last for long.

At stake for Wyoming Republicans on Jan. 5 will be 12 delegates to the national convention.

"We're first in the nation," said Tom Sansonetti, the state party's 2008 county convention coordinator. "At least for the next couple, three weeks until New Hampshire and Iowa move, which I expect they will."

Wyoming Republicans made the decision Saturday and announced it late Tuesday.

The ever-changing contest schedule — and the earlier start to the balloting — has created an enormous level of discomfort for national parties trying to impose discipline on the states as well as presidential campaigns trying to figure out strategies when voting could begin in just four months.

As a deterrence, the Republican National Committee insists they will penalize states that schedule nominating contests before Feb. 5 by withholding half of their delegates to the conventions next summer.

Wyoming doesn't have caucuses or primaries. Instead, the state's Democratic and Republican parties select some of their delegates at county conventions and the rest at statewide conventions.

After choosing 12 delegates in the county convention, the state GOP will select 16 more at-large delegates at a statewide convention May 30 in Rock Springs.

The state's Democrats still plan to hold their county conventions March 8 and their statewide convention May 24 in Jackson, Wyo.

Even as they moved up their county conventions, Wyoming's Republicans said they wanted a solution to the leapfrogging.

"Ultimately the goal here is to look beyond 2008 and fix the system, because the system is broken," Sansonetti said. "All this jumping around is because the states feel disenfranchised by letting Iowa and New Hampshire call the shots."

The primary scramble has continued unabated, and more moves are expected in the coming weeks. South Carolina Republicans moved their primary to Jan. 19, forcing Iowa and New Hampshire to reconsider their dates to maintain their early status. Iowa caucuses had been scheduled for Jan. 14 and New Hampshire's primary was tentatively set for Jan. 22. Nevada is scheduled to vote on Jan. 19.

The nominating calendar chaos has been just as great among the Democrats. The Democratic National Committee's rules committee voted on Aug. 25 to take away Florida's 210 delegates to the party's nominating convention in Denver next summer.

Florida Democrats were given 30 days to submit an alternative to its planned Jan. 29 primary.

The stern action was supposed to be a warning to other states not to leapfrog ahead.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.