Iowa GOP Chairman Matt Strawn fired a warning shot to states that may want to move their presidential nominating contests ahead of the four traditionally early states at a press briefing at the Republican National Committee on Thursday morning.
Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina and Nevada are scheduled by RNC bylaws to go first in the presidential nominating process, but already Minnesota and Florida are trying to move up their primaries. That could mean half of their delegates wouldn’t get a vote at the Republican National Convention. Asked about Florida, which will host the convention in 2012, Strawn said Sunshine State Republicans should carefully consider whether breaking the RNC’s rules to move up their primary is worth it.
“Chairman [Reince] Priebus has been very aggressive in communicating what the sanctions are for states that are out of compliance, and I would think those sanctions would be even more acute if the convention happened to be in your own state and key activists weren’t able to have access to the floor, you had hotels that weren’t necessarily as convenient, your committee members didn’t have their delegate passes,” he said. “I think those, sitting here as a state party chairman, I know how important those tools are to me and making sure my activists and financial supporters have what they need. So I think that that’s something that those states that aren’t in compliance need to seriously accept.”
The entire situation might seem familiar, since other states have jockeyed for earlier dates on the nominating calender in past years in an attempt to build influence. Florida held its election early, generating attention from 2008 contenders but holding little power when it came to selecting the nominee. Of course, the Democrats faced similar problems with Florida and Michigan holding contests early. After lengthy protests they ultimately settled the problem but not without some hurt feelings.
Strawn, a former Capitol Hill staffer, became chairman of the party in January 2009 and was re-elected in January 2011. He said more Iowa Republicans have been committing to potential presidential campaigns over the past couple weeks, and more potential candidates are making trips to the state. As that happens, though, he cautioned that candidates who decide to skip Iowa will miss valuable opportunities, especially as the state is in play in the general election.
“I don’t know why you would want to take yourself out of the national conversation by not participating in Iowa,” he said.
In 2008, President Barack Obama won the Democratic caucuses in Iowa and went on to win the state in the general election with 54 percent of the vote. Republican nominee Sen. John McCain (Ariz.) did not spend much time in Iowa prior to the caucuses and finished fourth behind former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney and former Tennessee Sen. Fred Thompson.
Strawn said Republican gains in voter registration and in state-level elected officials during the 2010 election cycle would also bode well for a Republican nominee.
Iowa’s caucuses are tentatively scheduled for Feb. 6, 2012.