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.