Wednesday, Oct. 19, 2011 | 10:58 a.m.
Republican National Committee chairman Reince Priebus, in Las Vegas for the Western Republican Leadership Conference, is reportedly pushing hard to broker an early-state compromise that would push Nevada’s caucus date back to Feb. 4.
Were the the state to move from its current date of Jan. 14, Nevada would hold the fifth presidential nominating contest—after Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina and Florida.
In return for forfeiting its coveted third-in-the-nation contest this year, Nevada would receive promises of stricter future sanctions to protect its early state status in the long term.
National party leaders also are promising to send high-level surrogates to Nevada to help the state and county parties raise money.
“A good argument can be made about unifying the party and Nevada stepping out and doing what it takes to get us refocused on what we should be thinking about, which is making Barack Obama a one-term president, instead of bickering over who gets to go first, second, third and fourth,” said former Gov. Bob List, Nevada’s Republican national committeeman.
List said he had breakfast with Priebus today and has discussed moving Nevada back to February with some of the presidential candidates.
List confirmed that Nevada would be “assured early status going forward” if it agrees to give up its No. 3 spot this year.
“There’s not a big, complex matrix of deals being made in a smoke-filled rooms,” List said. “Really, this is all about how we can make this work for the party at large.”
A Republican source close to the discussions says Priebus is working to broker the thorny compromise.
“Third is always better than fifth, but I actually think that this going to get done if there is a legitimate commitment to protect (Nevada's) long-term role and if Reince Priebus is a miracle worker,” the source said.
Nevada Chairwoman Amy Tarkanian told the Las Vegas Sun late Tuesday that discussions over the date are on-going.
The calendar chaos was triggered this month when Florida decided to break party rules and move its date to Jan. 31. That prompted leap-frogging by the traditional early states to protect their status. Nevada’s Jan. 14 date, however, encroaches on a New Hampshire law requiring that state’s primary be held seven days before any other contest. The New Hampshire secretary of state has warned the primary could be held in December if Nevada doesn’t budge.
The tension between New Hampshire and Nevada prompted five of the presidential candidates to threaten a boycott of the Silver State's caucuses.
Nevada’s date could be critical to the momentum of frontrunner Mitt Romney, who has put the most energy into building an organization in Nevada. Romney’s opponents could benefit from diminishing Nevada’s relevancy to the process by yanking it out of the No. 3 spot.
“The campaigns are pretty well unified in hoping we can resolve the issue,” List said. “I think that most of the candidates would appreciate it if we moved into February. In February they would have free and clear running room. It’s wide open.”