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Nevada moves caucus to Feb. 4

State buckles to pressure from New Hampshire law

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Karoun Demirjian

Republican national committeeman and former Nevada governor Bob List explains to members of the Nevada GOP why party leaders want to move the caucuses to Feb. 4 as party chairwoman Amy Tarkanian watches the crowd.

Updated Saturday, Oct. 22, 2011 | 12:22 p.m.

Nevada GOP moves caucus back

KSNV coverage of Nevada's Republican Party, under pressure, agreeing to move its caucus back to February, Oct. 22, 2011.

Nevada has moved its caucus date to Feb. 4, ending a long standoff between the state and New Hampshire, the state and the national Republican organizations, and several of the Republican candidates, including frontrunner Herman Cain.

"We just basically want to be the adults in the room here," Nevada GOP chairwoman Amy Tarkanian said. "This has turned into a huge debacle... It’s unnecesasary, it’s turned into a distraction."

"We will be the good guys in the end because we don’t need to be New Hampshire’s piñata," she said.

By making the switch, Nevada will now be holding its caucuses four days after Florida holds its primaries on Jan. 31. But by making the switch, Nevada remains the first electoral contest in the West, and gets its full complement of delegates back, as well as a promise from the Republican National Committee that the state will have top-priority seats at the convention, as well as "the best hotel," Tarkanian said.

"In our judgment it made more sense to go back in to February, be the peacemaker…. and quit quibbling with the juvenile Secretary of State of New Hampshire," said national committeman Bob List.

New Hampshire Secretary of State Bill Gardner had pushed Nevada to move its caucus to accommodate a New Hampshire state law that insists no other state hold its primary or caucus within seven days of New Hampshire's contest. New Hampshire wants to hold its primary on Jan. 10 — five days before the date Nevada initially selected for its caucus after Florida jumped the order of early states by taking Jan. 31.

The vote had only a few opponents in the room.

When List explained to the audience that "if we remain on the 14th of January, we will apparently be subject to a decision by a number of candidates that they will not campaign in Nevada...and (become) presumably less relevant in the big picture," one attendee offered an audible "their loss."

But no one stood up to make an impassioned case against the switch.

After the vote, the assembly turned into a free-for-all of tough talk for the future — mostly at Florida's expense — so this situation doesn't repeat itself.

"Al of this started with Florida and their ego problem, said national committeewoman Heidi Smith, who said she would personally recommend any state who breaks the RNC's rules in the future loses two-thirds of its delegates, gets no place to stay during the party convention and loses its VIP passes.

"It cannot happen again," she said.

It didn’t take Nevada Democrats five minutes to smack Nevada Republicans for changing their early caucus date to accommodate the rest of the Republican party.

Nevada Democrats — along with their counterparts from South Carolina — announced immediately following the Nevada GOP’s vote that it would still begin to select delegates in January, although on Jan. 21 rather than Jan. 14.

“This announcement ensures that the West and Southeast both will continue to play important roles in determining the President of the United States,” the party’s press release states.

The Democrats’ pre-convention process is hardly as interesting as the Republicans’, given that it only has one candidate: incumbent President Barack Obama.

But Democrats have still been blasting Republicans all week for appearing too weak to stand up to New Hampshire and the RNC.

“I'm deeply disappointed that the Nevada Republican Party has caved to the will of the Republican National Committee and New Hampshire,” senior Nevada Sen. Harry Reid said in a statement Saturday. “By working with South Carolina, Nevada Democrats have not only preserved our position in the nomination process but will ensure the West plays a crucial role in selecting our nation’s President in future contests.”

But Republicans didn’t seem to be too worried about losing that influence Saturday. Some suggested that playing clean-up to Florida’s contest on Jan. 31 could actually make Nevada more relevant as a tiebreaker, if Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina and Florida don’t yield a clear front-runner candidate.

“If we went to the 18th, it’s gonna be over,” Tarkanian said. “By going fifth, perhaps we would really be the tipping point.”

And while the four-day window after Florida is a tight one, the appeal of Feb. 4, closely followed by Colorado on Feb. 7, could attract more candidates to come to the West to campaign, which would increase national attention being paid to Nevada.

Mitt Romney’s state director, Ryan Erwin, said he wasn’t worried about the later date changing the dynamics of campaigning in Nevada.

“It doesn’t change anything,” Erwin said. “The calendar’s tight from beginning to end ... and Nevada and Florida are battleground states ... we’re able to focus on Romney, and our job in Nevada is to get people to turn out to the caucuses.”

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