Iowa could be in line to lose its prized first in the nation status for the 2012 presidential caucus. The caucus is currently set for February 6. But Florida is now considering moving up its presidential primary ahead of the caucus to January 31.
The possible change could have a big impact across the country. That's because the Republican National Committee actually has rules insisting that Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada, and South Carolina be the first four states to hold presidential caucuses or primaries. RNC rules also ban other states from holding those events before March 6. So if Florida breaks the rules and bumps its voting date up, other states could be pushed to follow suit, sending campaigns into overdrive.
In 2008, the Iowa caucus saw record turnout as both Democrats and Republicans vetted presidential candidates. Barack Obama's win in the Hawkeye state launched him onto a national stage, allowing him to secure the Democratic nomination and become president.
"Iowa does turn out to be important for a lot of candidates. It's also a place where they can figure out what works in terms of retail politics. They can make mistakes here," said Donna Hoffman, UNI political science professor.
That helps candidate refine their campaign strategies. In the end, that helps refine the person who ends up becoming the nominee. So even as a small state, Iowa's able to set the tone for the rest of the political season. And that's exactly why the state wants to stay first in the nation for presidential politics, rather than getting lost in the shuffle as a later voting state.
"Most caucus states don't get a lot of attention period because they are kind of arcane. They're also hard to predict. We get a lot of attention simply because we are first," Hoffman said.
So if Florida decides to move up its primary, Iowa and other early voting states will likely be forced to follow suit.
"It's not that they want to be first. They want to be fifth. They're expecting the four states to move up. And the four states will. Because Florida figures that if they can be fifth, they can be extremely influential in picking the Republican party nominee," said Hoffman.
Moving up dates for early voting states will also put pressure on political campaigns to step up their game, making more appearances in places like Iowa so voters can meet all the candidates and pick who they want to see in the White House.
"Ironically with Florida's decision to crowd and compress the primary calendar, it only increases the importance of Republican candidate to do well in Iowa. So really, it's somewhat ironic that their move today only elevates the stature of the Iowa caucuses," said Matt Strawn, Iowa GOP Chair.
And decision time is getting close since the deadline for states to submit their voting dates is this Saturday. But if Florida, or any other state, does decide to move up primary or caucus dates, there is a price to pay. The Republican National Committee can force rule-breaking states to lose half of their delegates, the individuals who will ultimately choose the party's nominee next August.
Iowa GOP Chair Matt Strawn says the state remains committed to staying first in the nation. And if Iowa does change its caucus date, it wouldn't be the first time. In 2008, the Iowa caucus was originally set for January 28. It was then moved up to the 14th and ended up happening on the 3rd.