GOP chairs in early-voting presidential primary and caucus states oppose pushing to modify nominating calendar
DES MOINES – Iowa’s caucuses have led off the presidential nominating calendar for half a century, and if Iowa GOP chair Jeff Kaufmann has his way, the race for the White House in the 2024 election cycle will once again “start right here in the Hawkeye State.”
“We are the first-in-the-nation caucus state – period. End of story,” Kaufmann emphasized in an interview with Fox News.
As the 2020 presidential election fades into the rearview mirror and the very early moves are already underway in the 2024 White House race, the quadrennial battle by the four states that lead off the primaries and caucuses – Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina, and Nevada – have already begun.
A display in a conference room at the Iowa GOP’s headquarters, in Des Moines, Iowa on July 15. 2021.
So far, the early 2024 nominating calendar drama is coming from the Democrats, with former Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, a longtime senator from Nevada, late last year igniting a push to move his state to the lead-off position. A bill passed by the state’s Democratic legislature and signed into law by Democratic Gov. Steve Sisolak last month would change the state’s caucus to a primary and move it to the first Tuesday in February in presidential nominating years.
Nevada is currently third in the Democrats’ nominating calendar, trailing Iowa’s caucuses and New Hampshire’s primary. It’s fourth in the Republican schedule, trailing Iowa, New Hampshire, as well as South Carolina’s primary.
But Nevada’s new law needs the backing of the national parties – the Democratic National Committee (DNC) and the Republican National Committee (RNC) – to come to fruition. If Nevada moved up the date of its contest without the national parties signing off on the move, it could face sanctions and the loss of convention delegates.
FILE – The Iowa Caucuses exhibit in Des Moines, Iowa
For years, the knock against Iowa and New Hampshire – among some Democrats – has been that the states are too White, lack any major urban areas and aren’t representative of a Democratic Party which has become increasingly diverse over the past several decades. Nevada and South Carolina are much more diverse and have larger metropolitan areas than either Iowa or New Hampshire.
That’s less of an issue for Republicans. Kaufmann and the other early-voting state GOP chairs – Steve Stepanek of New Hampshire, Drew McKissick of South Carolina, and Michael McDonald of Nevada – last month jointly issued a statement that made crystal clear their opposition to drive by Nevada Democrats.
The four GOP chairs have been teaming up all year to protect their cherished status. They held a hospitality session at the Republican National Committee’s (RNC) spring meeting in Dallas, Texas to drum up support among fellow national committee members and state party officials for keeping the existing nominating calendar.
Stepanek, who called the session at spring meeting “a last minute quick reception,” told Fox News that “we’re doing a much more in-depth reception at the RNC summer meeting (next month in Nashville, Tennessee) that is being put on by all four states. We’re all in unison working together to preserve the calendar and the order within the calendar exactly as it is.”
Stepanek shared that at next month’s meeting, the RNC will announce who will sit on the committee being put together on the presidential nomination process.
And he said the mission of the four chairs “is to make sure that all of the other members of the RNC recognize the importance of the primary calendar as it exists right now and that they endorse the primary calendar as it exists right now.”
A sign outside the New Hampshire state capital building that marks the state’s century long tradition of holding the first-in-the-nation presidential primary, in Concord, New Hampshire.
Kaufmann and Stepanek are also talking with their Democratic counterparts in their states, as they fight to protect the current calendar cross party lines in Iowa and New Hampshire.
“Iowa Democrats and Republicans don’t agree on much, but we do agree in keeping Iowa first in the nation. I have had conversations with Jeff Kaufmann and will continue to be in communication with him going forward,” Iowa Democrats chair Ross Wilburn said in a statement.
Wilburn highlighted that the Hawkeye State kickoff caucus “adds an important voice to the conversation.”
Longtime New Hampshire Democratic Party chair Ray Buckley emphasized that “anytime anyone comes after New Hampshire, we take it seriously and we prepare and we will do so again,”
“We will, I think, successfully save the primary again,” Buckley predicted. But he acknowledged that “it takes a lot of time, work, and relationships.”
When it comes to the GOP nominating calendar, Stepanek was equally confident, saying “I believe that the RNC, in my opinion, will not change the calendar.”
But he added that “we have to hope for the best and plan for the worst.”
Early traffic by the potential 2024 GOP presidential nomination contenders to Iowa and New Hampshire has been picking up in recent months. Former Vice President Mike Pence, former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, and South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem – who are considered potential White House hopefuls – are in Iowa on Friday, as they speak at the annual summit of an influential social conservative group. And another possible contender – Sen. Tom Cotton of Arkansas – is in New Hampshire on Saturday to help fundraise for Granite State Republicans.
Kaufmann spotlighted that he’s asked every potential 2024 contender who’s visited Iowa so far this year “whether the carve out system and specifically from our perspective the first-in-the-nation caucus” should remain untouched.
He touted that “every one of them have not only been a yes, they’ve been absolutely enthusiastic.”