DES MOINES, Iowa – Iowa Republicans on Tuesday rescheduled their presidential nominating caucuses to Jan. 3 in response to other states scheduling early contests.
"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," Chuck Laudner, executive director of the Iowa GOP, said in a statement.
The announcement came late Tuesday after the state central committee, two national committee members and the party chairman approved the date on a conference call.
Laudner said Republicans will continue to talk with the Iowa Democratic Party, which has yet to choose a caucus date. Democrats are believed to be considering Jan. 3 and Jan. 5. If they choose the later date, it would mean the first split caucus since the 1970s.
The caucuses tentatively had been scheduled for Jan. 14 for both parties.
Iowa's Democratic Party issued a statement after the Republicans' announcement, saying it was "planning for a January caucus that is run professionally and with integrity."
"We will decide our caucus date based ultimately on what is best for the people of Iowa and the Democratic Party," the statement said.
Iowa Republicans decided to move their first-in-the-nation contest even earlier on the calendar after both Florida and Michigan moved up their contests.
The new date means a lot of holiday-time campaigning in the state.
"A very early January caucus clearly means that instead of taking a break during the holidays and then having two more weeks to ramp it up, candidates could have no choice, I think, but to be in Iowa Dec. 26 on through," said David Redlawsk, a University of Iowa political scientist. "I guess we could imagine candidate-based New Year's Eve parties."
Complicating the presidential primary calendar is that New Hampshire, where state law requires it to have the nation's first presidential primary, has yet to set a date. New Hampshire Secretary of State William Gardner maintains that he won't settle on a date until other states make their moves.
Gardner also has said he would not schedule the New Hampshire primary after Jan. 8, so that's the timeline Iowa Republicans worked with, Laudner has said.
Hoping to keep some distance between the two states without going into the holidays, Jan. 3 is the date that appeared to work best.
Redlawsk said there are concerns about having a split date and what that could do to the integrity of the caucuses.
"I truly believe two different dates would be a mistake," he said. "If the caucuses are on different dates, how do you manage Republicans who then decide to go caucus for the Democrats, and vice versa?
"And while some people suggest there wouldn't be mischief ... the reality is that politics is a blood sport I guess — you win, you lose," he said.