The Nevada Republican Party on Saturday voted to move their presidential caucus to Feb. 4, defusing a calendar contretemps that had threatened to push the beginning of 2012 presidential voting into this year.
In voting to back off the Jan. 14 date that they had proposed for Nevada's presidential caucuses, Silver State Republican leaders bowed to the wishes of the Republican National Committee and a number of presidential candidates who had threatened to boycott the caucus as a protest -- and a way to curry favor with voters in the crucial early primary state of New Hampshire.
New Hampshire Secretary of State Bill Gardner, in an effort to protect his states first-in-the-nation primary, had threatened to move his state's election date to December. Nevada's move now makes Jan. 10 the likely New Hampshire primary date.
News of the caucus date move was first reported by Nevada political pundit Jon Ralston.
Today's decision by the Nevada GOP ends a dilemma for Republican presidential hopeful Mitt Romney, who had not agreed to participate in the boycott. Romney needsa strong performance in New Hampshire, where the former Massachusetts governor is a near favorite son. But he also didn't want to walk away from Nevada, where he won handily in the 2008 caucuses, but garnering 51 percent of the vote. Romney was under particular pressure from former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman, who is trying to undercut Romney in New Hampshire and was making an issue of his refusal to join the boycott.
Huntsman accused the Romney campaign of lobbying states to move up their primaries.
“Ultimately, Granite Staters wouldn’t have had to struggle to keep their primary tradition intact if the Romney campaign, for its own advantage, did not attempt to game our democracy by lobbying states to move up their primary contests," he said in a statement.
Ron Paul's presidential campaign also issued a statement, thanking the work of those who resolved the schedule dispute.
"We are extremely pleased with this decision, and we thank Nevada GOP Chair Amy Tarkanian and RNC Chairman Reince Priebus for their tireless work," Campaign Chairman Jesse Benton said.
Wayne MacDonald, chairman of the New Hampshire Republican Committee, stressed the importance of maintaining New Hampshire's first in the nation status.
"Nevada's decision to reschedule to February 4 will now allow Secretary of State Bill Gardner to schedule our primary at a more appropriate time than would've been allowed with Nevada's earlier date," he said in a statement. "The New Hampshire primary is important not just as a long standing tradition, but as an opportunity for lesser-funded or lesser-known candidates to have the opportunity to be heard."
Reaction from South Carolina, another early-voting state, was positive.
"Nevada Republicans, led by Chairwoman Amy Tarkanian, chose unity over chaos and brought order to the 2012 nominating calendar," said South Carolina Republican Party Chairman Chad Connelly in a statement. "I appreciate their leadership as well as the leadership of Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus. Chairman Priebus and Chairwoman Tarkanian put others before themselves and ultimately our Republican voters will benefit."
The first votes of the 2012 Republican presidential eliminations will be cast Jan. 3, the date for the Iowa caucuses.