Iowa Democrats, mark your calendars for February 6, 2012

The Democratic National Committee’s Rules Committee has recommended Monday, February 6, 2012 as the date for the next Iowa caucuses, according to Iowa Democratic Party executive director Norm Sterzenbach, who attended the meeting. The same body recommended February 14 for the New Hampshire primary, February 18 for the Nevada caucuses and February 28 for the South Carolina primary. All other Democratic nominating contests would occur in March or later.

Although we are unlikely to have real competition on the Democratic side in 2012, it’s good precedent to start the presidential nominating process in February rather than January. Having to knock on doors and phonebank between Christmas 2007 and New Year’s Day 2008 was insane.

The big question is how many states will try to jump ahead of the early states. The DNC rules committee recommends that states violating the proposed calendar would lose half of their delegates. The Republican Party adopted similar sanctions before the 2008 campaign, which didn’t deter Florida and Michigan from holding their primaries “too early.”

The 2010 Iowa caucuses were held on a Saturday afternoon, but off-year caucuses always have light attendance. A Saturday afternoon caucus in a presidential year was never likely, because observant Jews would be unable to participate.

I would like to see more reforms to the Iowa Democratic caucus process, including an absentee ballot option for shift workers who can’t get the night off or voters who are housebound. In Maine, Democrats can participate in the caucuses by absentee ballot.

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Iowa likely to go first again in 2012 presidential race

The Democratic National Committee’s Rules and Bylaws Committee met yesterday in Washington and approved a proposed calendar for the 2012 presidential nominating process. The DemRulz blog noted that the calendar “tracks the DNC Change Commission recommendations,” which state that all primaries and caucuses must be held in March 2012 or later, except for Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina and Nevada, which may schedule their nominating contests in February 2012. In a statement released to the media, Iowa Democratic Party Chair Michael Kiernan hailed the vote as “another important step” that “will help us ensure that Iowa is First-in-the-Nation once again.”

The Republican National Committee has moved toward a similar calendar in 2012, with the same four states allowed to schedule primaries or caucuses in February, and all other states allowed to go beginning March 1. The final calendar may not reflect the RNC’s wishes, though; some states may try to jump ahead the way Florida and Michigan did in 2008.

I suspect Iowa’s representatives will have to fight hard to maintain our early position for the 2016 campaign. Democrats in several larger states resent the outsized influence of Iowa and New Hampshire, which are small and predominantly white. The calendar doesn’t matter much on the Democratic side for 2012, because it’s unlikely anyone will challenge Barack Obama for the nomination, but the next cycle will certainly be competitive, whether or not Obama wins a second term.

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