Iowa GOP moves caucus, convention dates9/25/2013
The Republican Party of Iowa voted Monday to change the date of the 2014 caucus and state convention, ending months of infighting with Democrats over different caucus dates and internal party wrangling over the date of the convention.
Democrats have long settled on Jan. 21, a Tuesday, as the precinct caucus date, but the Iowa GOP’s state central committee bucked the Democrats and decided to hold their caucuses on Jan. 25, a Saturday.
Now, voters in both parties will caucus Jan. 21.
Political operatives and activists in both parties worried that different caucus dates would threaten the integrity of the caucuses because a person theoretically could vote in both Republican and Democratic caucuses. Iowa has same day voter registration.
After months of brinkmanship, the 18-member Iowa GOP board, which is controlled by Ron Paul supporters, relented and synced their caucus date with the Democrats in a 16-to-1 vote. The Iowa precinct caucuses, which is the first in the nation nominating contest during presidential years, has markedly lower turnout during mid-term years.
“Iowa Democrats thank the Republican Party of Iowa’s State Central Committee for honoring the long held tradition of having both party’s caucuses on the same night,” Iowa Democratic Party Chairman Scott Brennan said in a statement Monday. “Tonight’s action by the RPI ensures that Iowa’s caucuses are fair, open and accessible to everyone, and I look forward to working with (Iowa GOP Chairman A.J. Spiker) on not only ensuring that the 2014 caucuses are a success, but that the Iowa caucuses remain first in the nation.”
The about-face on the caucus date was a surprise to many political observers, as most of the recent controversy centered on the Iowa GOP’s August decision to push back the 2014 state convention from June 14 to July 12. The Iowa GOP unanimously reversed that decision Monday.
Many Republicans worried that the delay would give U.S. Rep. Bruce Braley, the likely Democratic nominee for U.S. Senate, an additional month to campaign and fund money — assuming that no one in the crowded field of Republican candidates reaches a 35 percent plurality in the June 3 primary necessary to avoid a convention.
Spiker initially insisted that the convention must be pushed back to accommodate a canvas of the primary vote, but he apparently changed his mind after Secretary of State Matt Schultz issued a statement contradicting his claim.
Gov. Terry Branstad called the delay a “mistake”, and one county party called for Spiker’s resignation over the flap.
The brouhaha over the caucus and convention dates illustrates grassroots discontent with Spiker’s leadership style of consulting with an inner circle of Ron Paul supporters while ignoring outside opinions.
“Both of these situations could have been avoided if Spiker had done a better job of consulting with his own party leaders, let alone the Democrats, before moving ahead,” Des Moines Register political columnist Kathie Obradovich wrote. “He would do well to remember the nation’s eyes remain on Iowa and any signs of disharmony or worse, incompetence, could jeopardize Iowa’s status in 2016.”