Iowa to Florida: Drop Dead

Florida's decision to move up its primary date to Jan. 31 will likely force Iowa to move its caucus into early January. Iowa Republican party members aren't happy.

Natalie Ginty, chairwoman of the Iowa Federation of College Republicans, summed up how many Iowa Republicans were feeling about Florida Friday.

"I'm not liking Florida at all right now," the 21-year-old University of Iowa student said.

Some Iowans are steamed after members of the Florida Republican party decided to move their state primary to Jan. 31, ahead of the Feb. 6 caucuses date currently scheduled in Iowa. Florida did this despite party rules that prohibit such a move.

Nevada, South Carolina, New Hampshire and Iowa were the only states allowed to schedule their caucus or primaries before March 6.

Arizona stuck its toe over the line by scheduling its primary on Feb. 28, the same day as the South Carolina primary, and now Florida has taken a big step into January.

"It’s just ridiculous ... Here we are now, the deadline (for states filing primary and caucus dates) is Saturday and Florida is starting to do this stuff," said Todd Versteegh, chairman of the caucus and convention committee for Johnson County Republicans.

"They are selfish. It is a completely selfish and self-centered move," he said.

Versteegh thinks the Republican National Committee should punish Florida by yanking the 2012 Republican National Convention out of Tampa Bay.

In a statement issued Friday morning, Iowa Republican Chairman Matt Strawn was not amused:

"The arrogance shown by Florida's elected leadership is disappointing, but not surprising. Equally troubling is to see this petulant behavior rewarded with our national convention. The consequences of Florida's intransigence must be swift and severe, including the refusal by the RNC to credential or seat any member of Florida's presidential primary date commission at the 2012 RNC convention in Tampa.

This move will likely mean that the confederation of four early states will all push their contests forward, with Iowa's caucuses probably landing somewhere in or possibly even December.

For Ginty, that means students she had hoped would be able to participate in an important political process will be sitting at home on winter break. Ginty said this will hinder her goal of getting more young people involved in the Republican party.

"If the kids aren't able to make it to town, back to Iowa, they're not going to be able to be a part of the caucus," Ginty said. "It will become much more difficult now."

Of course, there still is an outside shot of an Iowa caucus as early as this year. New Hampshire Secretary of State William Gardner said Friday that it may be possible that the primary would be held in December if it meant maintaining New Hampshire's first-in-the-nation primary status.

"Because we cannot rule out the possibility of conducting the primary before the end of this year, we are, regrettably -- as we were four years ago -- forced to move the presidential candidates filing period to October," Gardner said.

Iowan Caucus Not To Be "Messed With"

Chad Airhart, the Dallas County recorder, wants the RNC to punish Florida for the move, despite believing the Iowa Caucus will do fine regardless.

"Whenever the caucus is held there are a couple of givens; Iowa will
be first in the nation, and we will have a great turnout," Airhart said.

Amanda Freel, a Iowa House Caucus staff member, said she thinks the new Florida will breed unnecessary bad feelings.

"I think it's unfortunate Florida moved up its primary," she said. "Iowa's primary has always been the first in the nation - it's where it begins and where it has always began. I think it's bad form on Florida's part. Not only does it put a cramp in the campaign plans, but it creates a competition where there doesn't need to be."

Rick Hermann, sales manager for WeatherTech Automotive, echoed the displeasure.

"Do I support Florida moving its primary up?" he asked. "Absolutely not. Iowa has earned this right and a large percentage of constituents here take it very seriously. I think what we do here is unlike any other state and we take it incredibly serious. I personally don't think it's something to be messed with."

Looking on the Bright Side

While some Iowa Republicans were angry at the change, others happily rolled with the punch.

"This will put even more intensity and significance on Iowa for 2012
and be great for the restaurants in the East Village and downtown --
they are taking reservations now - some in the media still have
expense accounts," said Chris McLinden, a Waukee business owner and GOP Political activist. "All time lines have been moved up and both Iowa and New Hampshire will be the beneficiaries."

How will the Updated Time Table Affect Iowa's Imporance?

Cary Covington, an associate professor in political science at the University of Iowa who specializes in studying presidents, said there will be some potentially interesting fallout from Florida's decision. Will Florida be punished severely by the Republican party, rendering it meaningless for candidates? Will other states jump Florida pushing Iowa even earlier? 

More importantly, if several voting dates are compressed together, will that diminish the importance of any one early state race in narrowing down the field?

"We talk about Iowa winnowing the field, and winnowing takes time," Covington said. "The closer the dates get together on the schedule the less incentive a candidate has to drop out after a poor showing."

Eric Woolson, Iowa spokesman for Michele Bachmann's campaign, said Friday that he didn't think an earlier date would affect the importance of Iowa's caucus, as workers will still focus on getting their message out. He said, if anything, the change could make Iowa more important.

"States move their primaries up with the idea of diminishing Iowa's importance, but it's only heightened it. It's the law of unintended consequences. Trying to steal Iowa's thunder increases the importance of Iowa, because there's less time between Iowa and the next event," Woolson said.


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